Next Monday and Tuesday (18 and 19 July), temperatures are expected to reach up to 40 degrees for the first time. The highest recorded temperature to date is 38.7 degrees. The Met office has today issued its first ever Red warning for exceptional heat for those days. B P Collins’ employment team advises employers on what they need to consider.
As the heat intensifies, many people are thinking about and discussing the issue of workplace temperature, the duties of employers and when it might be too hot to work.
Currently, the law does not specify a maximum temperature of an indoor workplace. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that temperatures inside buildings should be “reasonable”. Whilst an approved Code of Practice suggests a minimum temperature of 16 degrees, or 13 degrees if work involves rigorous physical activity, there is no equivalent for maximum temperature. Generally, employers are expected to undertake risk assessments and take necessary action to protect the health and safety of their employees.
Jo Davis, employment partner, advises:
“Employers should take a sensible and consistent approach. If you have air conditioning, turn it on. If not, introduce fans, pull down the blinds and open windows. Relax the dress code where possible and, if the conditions become unbearable, consider allowing staff to work from home or let them leave early. But above all, be consistent.”
There have been calls to introduce a maximum temperature in the workplace. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called for there to be a maximum temperature of 30 degrees, or 27 degrees for those doing strenuous work. Additionally, 40 MPs so far have signed an early day motion (EDM), tabled on 11 July 2022, calling on the government to introduce legislation enforcing these same temperature limits and requiring employers to implement effective control measures such as installing ventilation or moving staff away from windows and sources of heat when temperatures exceed the suggested limits.