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The TUC has today (Tuesday) urged employers to make sure their staff are protected from the sun and heat, as the Met Office issues one of its new-style extreme amber heat weather warnings for the first time.
  • Met Office issues extreme heat weather warning for the first time 

  • Forecasters warn temperatures will continue to climb and could reach 33 degrees C (91.4F) in some parts of the country 

  • TUC calls on employers to make sure staff are protected from the sun and heat 

The TUC has today (Tuesday) urged employers to make sure their staff are protected from the sun and heat, as the Met Office issues one of its new-style extreme amber heat weather warnings for the first time. 

The amber warning covers parts of Wales, all of south-west England and parts of southern and central England and will be in place until Thursday (22 July), when temperatures are expected to peak. 

Health warning 

Working in hot weather can lead to dehydration, tiredness, muscle cramps, rashes, fainting, and – in the most extreme cases – loss of consciousness. 

The TUC says employers can help their workers by:  

  • 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.  

  • 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. 

The law 

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. 

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 indoor temperature, set at 30degC – or 27degC for those doing strenuous jobs. 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all love the summer sun. But working in sweltering conditions in a baking shop or stifling office can be unbearable and dangerous. 

“Indoor workplaces should be kept cool, with relaxed dress codes and flexible working to make use of the coolest hours of the day. 

“And bosses must make sure outdoor workers are protected with regular breaks, lots of fluids, plenty of sunscreen and the right protective clothing.” 

The TUC is also asking employers to consider additional needs that may arise in hot weather from coronavirus health and safety requirements. Frances O’Grady added: 

“It’s even more important to use PPE safely in this hot weather. Staff will need extra breaks to cool down if their equipment reduces ventilation. 

“And while many offices have air conditioning, few people have it in their homes. Lots of staff are still working from home, so they may struggle to work during the hottest parts of the day. Employers should allow flexible hours so people can work when it’s cooler.” 

Editors note

- The Met Office extreme weather warning is in place until Thursday (22 July) and is available at:  
- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 

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