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With temperatures expected to rise well above 30C in parts of the UK this week and beyond, whether employees are working from home, in an office or at another workplace, rumors often swirl about rights employees regarding the temperatures at which they can legally work.
Following the covid pandemic, many employees continue to work from home permanently or use a mixture of home and office work. However, this does not mean that employers can forget about their health and safety responsibilities during heat waves. For businesses that have employees in a workplace, businesses typically rely on air conditioning to regulate temperatures. However, for employees who work from home (or in a workplace that does not benefit from air conditioning), they may have to rely on opening windows and using fans, which can lead to noise pollution.
So, do employees have the right to stop working if a maximum temperature is exceeded?
No, employees do not have the right to stop working. Surprisingly enough, while there is a minimum working temperature of 16° for workplaces, there is no maximum temperature. Since there are industries where it will be necessary to work at higher temperatures, such as bakeries and metal and glass production, it is difficult to envision what an appropriate limit for a maximum temperature would be.
But while employers do not have a legal obligation to ensure that a maximum working temperature is not exceeded, they do have a duty to ensure that they provide a safe environment where staff are not at risk of becoming ill from because of the heat. For those who have employees working from home, it is a good idea for line managers to check in with staff that they are doing well and remind employees to take breaks and stay hydrated.
For employees who work in a regular workplace, employers should consider relaxing dress code rules, particularly by removing restrictive clothing such as ties. Considering a dress-casual policy for days with considerably high temperatures is also a good idea.
Another consideration may be to work on a more flexible schedule, such as earlier departures or later arrivals, when it is generally slightly cooler, allowing employees to rest during the hottest part of the day or Avoid crowded public transport during rush hour.
And what about those who have health problems?
In the worst-case scenario, if employees feel unwell from the heat, especially for those who may suffer from health issues more likely to be exacerbated by the heat, employers could find themselves embroiled in litigation. for bodily injury. There are disabilities, such as arthritis and the lung disease COPD, which make it particularly difficult to work in high temperatures. As these conditions are disabilities under the Equality Act 2010, employers should consider reasonable adjustments to allow employees to do their jobs safely.
What does the law require companies to do?
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 simply state that the temperature of a workplace should be reasonable.
The Occupational Health and Safety Management Regulations 1999 require employers to carry out an appropriate assessment of the health and safety risks to their employees. Temperature is a potential hazard that employers should consider when making such assessments. If several employees complain about the heat, the company is legally obliged to carry out our risk assessment.
Additional measures should also be taken in relation to pregnant employees and ensure that specific risk assessments for pregnant employees or those with certain medical conditions or taking medication are carried out.
From a practical standpoint, it’s also hard for employees to be productive if they’re uncomfortable with the heat. Remember that a long cold drink in the garden will often seem more appealing than the stuffy home office! Whenever possible, respond to reasonable requests from your employees. The school holidays are not so far away, so the inevitable change in weather is probably upon us!
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.
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