With any luck, the summer is finally here – so what are your obligations as an employer during hot weather?
Can an employee leave the workplace if it becomes too hot?
Not unless they’re unwell and need to take sick leave. In the UK there is no maximum temperature for a workplaces, but advice from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) states that: “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”. What is reasonable depends on the type of work being done (manual, office) and the type of workplace (kitchen, air-conditioned office). As an employer, you have the duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be during a heatwave and take action accordingly.
Do you legally have to provide air conditioning in the office?
While employers are not legally obliged to provide air conditioning in workplaces, they are expected to provide reasonable temperatures. If you have air conditioning switch it on, if you have blinds or curtains use them to block out sunlight and make sure employees working outside wear appropriate clothing and use sunscreen to protect from sunburn. If your workplace isn’t air conditioned, provide desk fans when possible.
Should you relax your dress code?
This depends entirely on the nature of your business. If employees are in customer facing roles, you can still insist on certain standards of appearance, or on PPE if it is required for health and safety reasons. However, you should definitely consider relaxing your dress code whenever possible to make sure your employees are more comfortable – you can still enforce certain standards if you wish, such as no flip flops or beachware.
How do you protect vulnerable employees?
The hot weather can make employees feel tired and less energetic, especially those who are young, older, pregnant or on medication. You may wish to give these workers more frequent rest breaks and ensure ventilation is adequate by providing fans, or portable air-cooling units. You could also consider a rota that lets employees be flexible with start and finish times so that they don’t have to swelter in the mid-afternoon sun. Additionally, letting staff work from home where they may feel more comfortable is also a way to keep concentration and productivity high.
How can you promote wellbeing?
Tempers tend to rise during the hot weather so make sure you mediate potential conflicts fairly and promptly– arguments over the temperature of the air conditioning of the office can be particularly ferocious in the summer!
Encourage your employees to drink plenty of water throughout the day and provide water coolers when possible – if you’re feel thirsty, it’s an indication you’re already dehydrated.
High temperatures also mean increased tiredness and loss of concentration, and when staff are hot they won’t be at their most productive. Encourage your employees to take regular breaks and stay hydrated – treating everyone to ice creams usually goes down very well as well!
If you need any support or guidance in managing hot weather in the workplace, please get in touch!
T: 0151 728 7717