HR 23 July 2018

UK heatwave: What does the law say on employee rights during hot weather?

UK heatwave
What rights do employees have during periods of unusually hot weather?

The hottest day of the decade could be on its way to the UK – with the mercury set to climb to highs of 34 degrees on Wednesday 25 July, according to the Met Office.

But, for employees, the sun’s rays can make the working environment almost unbearable.

Laura Kearsley, partner and solicitor in the employment team at East Midlands-based Nelsons Solicitors, explains what the law says on employee rights during hot weather.

Can I leave my workplace if it becomes too hot?

Not unless staff feel unwell and need to take sick leave. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 places a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” working temperature in the office. Employers have a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances.

Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?

In addition, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees.

The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should consider when doing risk assessments.

Read more:

Do I legally have to provide air conditioning in the office?

No, you do not. Where working temperatures are uncomfortable, employers should consider:

  • Using fans or air conditioning if available
  • Providing cool water in the workplace and encouraging workers to drink it to prevent dehydration
  • Modifying the dress code requirements if appropriate

However, sensible employers will use mobile air conditioning units and fans to keep workers cool. If you have other suggestions for how your employer could make working in the warm weather more comfortable, you should pass these on.

Is it acceptable for workers to wear shorts and flip flops in the office during warm weather?

You may change dress code requirements in warmer weather if this is appropriate. However, you are still entitled to insist on certain standards of appearance – particularly for customer-facing roles and for shoes and clothing to be sensible for health and safety reasons.

Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?

The general duties for employers to treat employees with trust and confidence apply throughout the employment relationship.  At times of hot weather and uncomfortable working conditions, employers will need to be considerate to employees – after all, if staff are too hot, they won’t be at their most productive.

For more information or to speak to a member of Nelsons Solicitors’ employment team, visit www.nelsonslaw.co.uk/employee-rights or call 0800 024 1976.

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