Issue date
23 Jul 2018

As the heatwave continues with temperatures set to hit 34oC in parts of the UK on Wednesday (25 July), the TUC is calling on employers to keep workplaces cool and relax dress codes so staff can work as comfortably as possible.

The TUC says bosses can help their workers by:

  • Keeping their buildings cool: Hot workplaces are not inevitable. Often simple steps, such as having windows that can be opened, fans, moving staff away from windows or sources of heat, or installing ventilation or air-cooling will be effective.
  • Temporarily relaxing their workplace dress codes: Allowing staff to work in more casual clothing – leaving the jackets and ties off and wearing lightweight clothes instead – will help them keep cool.
  • Allowing flexible working: Giving workers the choice of coming in earlier or staying late will let them avoid the sweltering conditions of the rush hour commute.
  • Keeping staff comfortable: Distributing fans, providing portable air-cooling cabinets, allowing staff to take frequent breaks and providing a ready supply of cold drinks will all help keep workers cool.

The dangers of hot workplaces

When the workplace gets too hot it is more than just an issue about comfort, warns the TUC. High temperatures mean workers are at risk of:

  • dizziness, fainting, or even heat cramps
  • loss of concentration and increased tiredness, which means that workers are more likely to put themselves or others at risk
  • an increase in the likelihood of accidents due to reduced concentration, slippery, sweaty palms or people ditching uncomfortable safety gear.

The law

While staff are not expected to work when the temperature drops below 16oC (or 13oC if they are do 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 30oC – or 27oC for those doing strenuous jobs – with employers obliged to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24oC.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s no fun working in a baking office or factory and employers should do all they can to take the temperature down.

“The most simple way for staff to keep cool inside when it’s scorching outside is being able to work in more casual clothing. While shorts and vest tops may not be appropriate for all, nobody should be made to wilt in the heat for the sake of keeping up appearances.

And bosses who provide a cool and comfortable work environment are going to get more out of their staff. Workers who are unable to dress down in more appropriate summer clothing, or who work in offices without air-conditioning, fans or a plentiful supply of cool drinking water, are going to feel lethargic, and lack inspiration and creativity.”

Editors note

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

- The TUC’s advice on how to handle working through a heatwave is at: www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/TemperatureGuide.pdf
- 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 should also ensure that outdoor workers have sunscreen and water and are given advice on the need to protect themselves from the heat and sun. For more information please visit: www.tuc.org.uk/news/heatwave-make-sure-staff-working-outside-have-enough-water-and-breaks-says-tuc
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