A heatwave might sound like heaven for many. But there is a huge difference between high temperatures whilst on holiday and when having to work.
And whilst the rising mercury might present challenges for those who work outdoors, it is also rarely a picnic for those working indoors.
Air conditioning is not as commonly used in the UK as it is in warmer climates, so many buildings are ill-equipped to manage a heatwave. People struggle to stay comfortable, especially if they have medical conditions or are older.
Employers have a duty of care to protect the health, wellbeing, and safety of staff in the workplace, and this includes making reasonable adjustments to support anyone struggling in warmer weather.
Gavin Scarr Hall, Health & Safety Director at Peninsula, says:
“Despite what people think, there is no maximum temperature specified in current UK legislation that makes it “too hot” law to work. Therefore employees do not have the right to be sent home during hot weather. However, that doesn’t mean that any temperature is acceptable…
“During hot weather, employers should consider what they can do to keep employees comfortable. One of the simplest ways is to relax dress codes. Breathable, loose clothing made from linen and cotton can make a significant difference in hot temperatures. Maxi dresses, skirts, shorts, or loose-fitting, lighter trousers will all help. If you have a uniform policy in place, consider having a summer option to help ensure comfort.
“Next consider ventilation. Windows and doors should be open where possible, and where no fire regulations are breached, to ensure a flow of fresh air into the building. You might need to be flexible with seating arrangements as some employees may wish to be closer to open windows. Think about desk swaps, or reorganising the layout so that workstations are not in direct sunlight. Keep blinds closed or consider adding reflective window film as an easy, cost-effective way to help keep the sun out.“Small desk fans that plug into a laptop can provide relief throughout the day, helping individual employees who need more support whilst avoiding making the office temperature uncomfortably cool for everyone.
“Make sure employees have access to cool drinking water to prevent dehydration and take regular breaks to help avoid heat exhaustion.
“It’s important to have an environment where employees feel able and comfortable to raise issues or concerns to you, knowing that they will be listened to and addressed where feasible.”
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.