With the temperatures likely to hit the low 30Cs today (Friday) across the South East, and the mid to high 20C’s in other parts of England and Wales, the TUC is calling on employers to temporarily relax workplace dress codes to help their staff work through the heatwave as comfortably as possible. 

The sudden increase in temperatures means that many workplaces have become unbearably hot with many employees visibly wilting, says the TUC.

Although there is a legal limit below which workplace temperatures should not fall (16C), most people may be surprised to learn there is no upper limit.

For many years the TUC has been pushing for a change in safety regulations to introduce a new maximum temperature of 30C – or 27C for those doing strenuous work – with employers forced to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24C.

In the meantime employers can help their overheating staff by allowing them to leave their more formal office attire at home for the rest of the week, says the TUC.

Bosses who let their employees loosen their ties, discard their jackets and remove their tights will undoubtedly get the thumbs up from their grateful employees this week, says the TUC.

The best and most simple way for staff to keep cool inside when it’s scorching outside is for them to be able to come to work in more casual clothing, urges the TUC.  

And employers who provide cool and comfortable work environments will get more out of their staff when it’s sweltering, says the TUC. Workers who are unable to come to work in smart summer clothing and who work where there is no air-conditioning, fans or cold drinking water will feel lethargic, and lack inspiration and creativity.

While it may not be possible for staff who regularly attend meetings with external clients, who deal with the public or who wear company uniforms to turn up to work in vest and shorts, so long as employees are smartly turned out, it should be possible to agree on a dress code that fits with the corporate image and helps keep staff cool.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “When it’s hot outside, it’s no fun for those trapped inside in overheated workplaces.

“Extreme heat can be as unpleasant to work in as extreme cold, and so long as the UK has no legal maximum working temperature, many workers will be working in
conditions that are not just personally unpleasant, but will also be affecting their productivity.

“Now is the time for employers to relax the dress code rules temporarily and allow their staff to dress down for summer. Making sure that everyone has access to fans, portable air conditioning units and cold drinking water should help reduce the heat in offices, factories, shops, hospitals, schools and other workplaces across the country.”

To keep work cool, the TUC would like to see employers: 

  • allow staff to adopt less formal attire – with jackets and ties out, and short sleeves, vest tops and shorts in
  • distribute fans to staff and provide portable air cooling cabinets
  • install air conditioning and maintain it regularly, so that it doesn’t break down during a heatwave
  • allow flexible working so that staff can have the option of coming in earlier and staying later to avoid the sweltering conditions of the rush hour commute
  • move desks away from windows, draw blinds or install reflective film
  • allow staff to take frequent breaks and provide a ready supply of cool drinks.