As temperatures are due to top 37 degrees this week, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) urges employers to provide flexible working hours and a relaxed dress code for employees in the workplace.
At present, a legal maximum or minimum temperature has not been specified in the workplace regulations however, the Workplace Regulations 1992 Act does state that employers are legally obliged to protect the health and safety of their employees and this includes keeping the temperature in workplaces at a reasonable temperature.
The TUC has proposed for a maximum indoor temperature of 30 degrees and 27 degrees for employees in strenuous jobs. Employers must provide a cool and comfortable working environment under this proposal and offices should be as cool at 24C. Additionally, the TUC adds that staff should have access to cold drinks and take regular breaks to help them cope with the hot temperatures.
Employees that are made to work in an office without air-conditioning, fans and drinking water will be tired and have difficulty concentrating which may lead to reduced productivity. It is therefore in the employer’s best interest to take the necessary actions to ensure they provide a comfortable working environment for their staff members.
Consideration for employees with health conditions or disabilities
Additional consideration should also be given to employees with a disability or health condition as the heat can amplify these conditions.
If an employer is unable to meet these requirements, workers should be given the flexibility to work from home or travel at different times. Francis O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC stated that “Nobody should be made to suffer in the heat for the sake of keeping up appearances.”
Relaxing the dress code at work
In addition, employers should give workers the option of wearing casual clothing to work where it is appropriate to do so. This can include allowing employees to wear lighter clothes or more casual attire for comfort.
If a relaxed dress code is introduced, it is important to note that the dress code should be relaxed for both female and male workers to ensure all employees are being treated equally and to prevent any sexual discrimination claims being made.
It may not be possible to relax the dress code for employees in warehouse and manual labour premises due to the presence of heavy machinery. For example, it is compulsory for employees working in warehouses to wear protective footwear for health and safety purposes and this rule cannot be relaxed.