When is it too hot to work?

The UK recently saw soaring temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius induced by climate change. This led to extreme weather warnings and travel and school closures across the UK. 

Employers have an obligation to ensure that employees are working in a safe environment as far as reasonably possible. As such, employers will need to consider what they can do to ensure this is the case throughout any case of extreme weather.

When is it too hot, or too cold, to work?

There is no legal limit on the minimum or maximum temperature in the workplace. The reason for this is that certain occupations are required to work either in very cold or very hot conditions, and so it would not be appropriate to enforce minimum or maximum workplace temperatures.

Instead, the Health and Safety Executive (‘HSE’) have released guidance stating that employers need to ensure that staff can work at a ‘reasonable temperature’. What is reasonable will vary depending on the business.

What can employers do?

There are a number of steps employers can make to reduce the risk to staff, for example:

  • Risk assessments – Employers should look to undertake risk assessments in respect of the workplaces they require their staff to work in. As mentioned, employers have a duty of care towards staff to ensure that they are safe in the workplace, as such employers should consider taking reasonable measures to reduce the risk to employees where there is a risk arising from the extreme heat. These adjustments will vary from workplace to workplace, however as an example, the employer could consider installing air conditioning, relaxing dress codes or allowing staff to work from home to avoid public transport.
  • Reasonable adjustments – If an employee approaches the employer with specific concerns relating to extreme temperatures, perhaps in relation to a disability, the employer should take concerns seriously and discuss changes that could be made to help the employee work effectively. A failure to make reasonable adjustments for an employee in this situation could increase the risk of a successful disability claim against the employer.
  • Policy – Employers should also look to implement a comprehensive health and safety policy, if there isn’t one in place already. 

How can Moore Barlow help?

The employment team at Moore Barlow is well equipped to advise employers on their obligations regarding the welfare of their staff. Should you need advice, please do contact our business employment team.