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Summer Heatwave: Can It Legally Be "Too Hot To Work"?

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Britain – and indeed Europe – is currently enjoying a heatwave in July, with temperatures soaring up to 37 degrees in some parts of the UK already. But what are the laws for working in hot weather? Tilly Bailey & Irvine investigates….

“It’s too hot to work in here” is a common utterance across offices when the weather takes a turn, particularly during a week where the hottest day of the year was also interrupted by a lengthy lightning storm through the night to break the trend.

It is expected to reach at least 37C in the south east of England, which would beat the current July record of 36.7C set at Heathrow in 2015.

But is that complaint actually a true statement?

Well, legally, there is no employment law in place that states we cannot work in such conditions. According to GOV.uk:

"there is no law for minimum or maximum working temperatures. However, guidance suggests a minimum of 16C or 13C if employees are doing physical work. Having said that, employers must adhere to the health and safety of work law, which states temperatures must be kept at a comfortable level and they must provide fresh, clean air for workers.”

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 are far more vague however, simply stating that "during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable".

While there may not be any legal text in place to make it a concern, a bout of common sense must be applied by employers to ensure the best for their staff.

How Employers Should React

Hydration is key, and more so in select scenarios such as those working in physical roles, indoor or outdoor. While workers should be aware to look after themselves, employers must provide you with suitable drinking water in the workplace, regardless of the temperature.

Another thing to remember is the environment. Those working in glass buildings will naturally be warmer, as will those working in smaller, crammed rooms with multiple people around them. Surprisingly, closing windows when you’re trying to cool down is actually the best way to avoid letting in more hot air, while opening windows simply lets out the hard work done by air-conditioning.

Greater awareness of the situation should be expected from senior employers, but they should be prepared to listen to suggestions.

Wearing appropriate clothing helps, which is why the question should be asked to employers.

Similarly, flexible working can be considered. By law, all employees who have worked for their employer continuously for 26 weeks (half a year) have the right to ask if they can work flexibly – that might be to do with hours, times or place of work – regardless of the heat. Some employers are also more relaxed on this.

Water, comfort and listening to suggestions are key for employers, and after that, we can all enjoy the summer of 2019 in the way we should!

For more legal advice on employment law, contact Tilly Bailey & Irvine’s Business law teams across the North East. Call 01740 646000 or visit www.tbilaw.co.uk

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