25 July 2019
Should businesses shut down in the heatwave?
Businesses across England and Wales are closing today, while others have told employees to work at home as temperatures are set to reach 38C in some places.
But where does the law stand on this issue? Is there a limit on the temperatures that employees have to experience before employers will send them home?
“As the temperature heats up, many employers are wondering whether they should be taking some action to keep their employees cool and avoid breaching any health and safety obligations. However, formal obligations are limited. The law provides that workplace temperatures must be “reasonable”, but there is no upper limit on the temperature at work. While back in 2013 a group of MPs and unions pressed for an upper limit to be set, it went nowhere.
“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. What you do not want is one employee claiming to have been forced to work on through the heat while their older/younger/male or female colleagues were allowed to go home. Also, leaving aside the discrimination risk, treating one set of employees differently to others can cause bad feeling. Whereas, taking a sensible approach can help to boost morale in the office.”