Surely we can’t have a summer without the Sun running that headline, but with meteorologists forecasting a 25% chance of the hottest summer on record, where do employers stand when employees complain of heat exhaustion?
Health and Safety rules dictate minimum temperatures for workplaces (16 degrees C for sedentary work, 13 for more physical activities) but only require that maximum temperatures are ‘reasonable’.
As ever a balance of employment law and employee relations and pragmatically employers should take reasonable steps to alleviate hot working conditions, even though there is no legal right for an employee to refuse to work in the heat – indeed to do so, unless they can show that they were in imminent danger of damaging they’re health (as opposed to just uncomfortable) could amount to a serious disciplinary offence.
Contrary to popular belief then, and employee cannot insist on going home if the workplace is too hot, but practically steps could be taken to increase comfort levels. These aren’t legally required (although the provision of drinking water is a requirement, though not necessarily chilled) but are sensible steps towards maintaining a happy workforce, which is something all of us aspire to do. Some examples:
- Increase ventilation (but don’t prop open fire doors)
- Provide additional drinks breaks
- Supply fans or get a portable air con units
- (Longer term perhaps cost air conditioning)
- Take special account of vulnerable workers – the elderly or pregnant
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