UK heat wave - MPs call for maximum limit to workplace temperatures
The UK is currently recording temperatures higher than Spain or the Bahamas, which is all well and good if you are able to sunbathe and even better if you have access to a pool – but what if you have to work?
Currently, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/3004) requires employers to ensure that temperatures in all workplaces inside buildings are reasonable and an Approved Code of Practice sets a limit on minimum workplace temperatures of 16 degrees (or 13 degrees if the work involves severe physical effort). However, to date there is no limit on the maximum workplace temperature.
Because of this, MP’s and Unions have lobbied for an early day motion (EDM) which calls on the government to authorise legislation introducing a maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, or 27 degrees Celsius for workers doing strenuous work and to require employers to introduce effective control measures, such as installing ventilation or moving staff away from windows and heat sources. It will be interesting to see whether or the legislation comes into force, especially if high temperatures become more prevalent across the UK.
What rights do employees have?
Despite there being no maximum temperature limit and no legal right to say it is too hot to work, employers must consider their duty of care to ensure that their employees are safe in the workplace. Particularly, if the employee is in a role which is primarily outside, such as a construction worker, then the employer should provide the necessary items, such as enough sun cream for the entirety of the shift and access to sufficient water, to ensure their safety.
Particularly during the ongoing heatwave, regardless of the physicality or location of the workplace, it’s important that employers have the safety of their employees at the forefront of their minds. Although there is no legal provision in place, employers should consider making changes to the routine if possible or ensuring that the work conditions are safe for employees.
Some top tips!
- Ensure the workplace is well ventilated, fans are available, windows can be opened etc;
- Encourage working from home if people can work this way as this also avoids any additional issues caused in hot weather e.g., by those needing to travel on public transport;
- Consider changing start/ end times to make full use of the cooler hours of the day;
- Ensure that there is easy access to water to keep everyone hydrated;
- Be flexible on work clothing requirements (where appropriate and as long as safety isn’t compromised) to allow people to wear cooler options.