Relax workplace dress codes and working hours during heatwave

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- Temperatures set to hit over 30 degrees celsius in parts of the UK this week
- South West TUC calls on employers to relax workplace dress codes temporarily to help staff cope
- Health and safety laws should be amended to also introduce a maximum workplace temperature


With temperatures set to hit over 30 degrees Celsius in parts of the UK this week, the South West TUC is calling on employers to temporarily relax their workplace dress codes so staff can work through the heatwave as comfortably as possible. 

Where people are working outdoors, employers should consider reviewing working times so that, where possible, work is done in the morning and afternoon, rather than around midday when temperatures are highest.

Bosses can also help their workers keep cool by letting them come to work in more casual clothing.

While staff are not expected to work when the temperature drops below 16 degrees (or 13 degrees if they are doing physically demanding work) there are no restrictions for when the workplace becomes too hot.

The TUC would like to see a change in the law to introduce a new maximum indoor temperature, set at 30 degrees  – or 27 degrees for those doing strenuous jobs – with employers obliged to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24 degrees .

Nigel Costley, the South West TUC Regional Secretary said: “It’s nice to get a bit of sunshine and warm temperatures in the UK. But working in sweltering conditions can be unbearable and even dangerous.

“Employers can give their staff a break by relaxing dress code rules temporarily and ensuring staff doing outside work are protected.

“Obviously shorts and flip flops won’t be the right attire for all workers, but no one should be made to suffer unnecessarily in the heat for the sake of appearances.”

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

  • allow staff to adopt less formal attire – for example, with jackets off and casual lightweight clothes in;
  • ensure that outdoor workers have sun-screen and water, and are given advice on the need to protect themselves from the heat and sun;
  • distribute fans to staff and provide portable air cooling cabinets;
  • 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;
  • allow staff to take frequent breaks and provide a ready supply of cool drinks.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

- Employees are not expected to work when the temperature drops below 16degC (or 13degC if they are doing physically demanding work), but there are no similar restrictions for when the workplace becomes too hot. The law only states that staff should work in a “reasonable” temperature. The TUC would like to see the law changed so there is an absolute indoor maximum of 30degC, with employers forced to introduce cooling measures when the temperature hits 24degC.

- The TUC’s advice on how to handle working through a heatwave can be found at www.worksmart.org.uk/health/summer_heat

- All SWTUC press releases can be found at https://www.tuc.org.uk/south-west/mediacentre

- SWTUC on Twitter: @swtuc

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