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Temperatures set to soar to 33 degrees – employers need to take action

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We all love the summer sun. But working in sweltering conditions, whether it’s in a baking shop, stifling office or working from home, can be unbearable and dangerous.  

For the first time, the Met Office have issued an extreme amber weather warning. Forecasters warn temperatures will continue to climb and could reach 33 degrees C (91.4F) in some parts of the country.  

Working in hot weather can lead to dehydration, tiredness, muscle cramps, rashes, fainting and – in the most extreme cases – loss of consciousness. Prolonged sun exposure puts workers at higher risk of skin cancer. This is why it is imperative that employers make sure their staff are protected from the sun and heat.

How employers can help

  • Allowing flexible working: Giving staff the chance to come in earlier or stay later will let them avoid the stifling and unpleasant conditions of the rush hour commute. Bosses should also consider enabling staff to work from home while it is hot. Homeworkers may struggle to work during the hottest parts of the day. Allow for flexible hours so people can work when it’s cooler 
  • Keeping workplace buildings cool: Workplaces can be kept cooler and more bearable by taking simple steps such as opening windows, using fans, moving staff away from windows or sources of heat, or installing ventilation or air-cooling.   
  • Temporarily relaxing their workplace dress codes: Encouraging staff to work in more casual clothing than normal – leaving the jackets and ties at home – will help them keep cool.    
  • Keeping staff comfortable: Allowing staff to take frequent breaks and providing a supply of cold drinks will all help keep workers cool.   
  • Talking and listening to staff and their union: Staff will have their own ideas about how best to cope with the excessive heat.  
  • Sensible hours and shaded areas for outdoor workers: Outside tasks should be scheduled for early morning and late afternoon, not between 11am-3pm when temperatures are highest. Bosses should provide canopies/shades where possible.  
  • Sun protection: Prolonged sun exposure can be dangerous for outdoor workers, so employers should make sun protection available.  

What the law says 

There’s no law for minimum or maximum working temperatures. However, during working hours the temperature in all indoor workplaces must be ‘reasonable’. 

Guidance suggests a minimum of 16degC, or 13degC if employees are doing physical work. And employers have a duty to keep the temperature at a comfortable level and provide clean and fresh air.  

We need change  

The TUC would like to see a change in the law so that employers must attempt to reduce temperatures if they get above 24degC and workers feel uncomfortable. And employers should also be obliged to provide sun protection and water for outdoor workers. 

The TUC would also like ministers to introduce a new maximum temperature, set at 30degC – or 27degC for those doing strenuous jobs.   

Show your support

We need an absolute maximum working temperature to keep people safe from the risks associated with excessive heat and sun exposure.


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