Legal Workplace Temperatures in the UK
With heatwaves in the summer months in the UK becoming more common place, what should businesses be doing to ensure their employees are comfortable?
Is there a law on working temperatures in the UK?
There are no legal working temperature laws in the UK which prescribe minimum or maximum temperatures in the workplace. The only thing employers are obliged to do is to ensure that they comply with health and safety at work law, in that they provide clean and fresh air and ensure that the temperature is at a “comfortable level”. Guidance suggests that the minimum should be 16°c or 13°c if doing physical work, however there is no guidance as to an upper limit.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has this week called for employers to allow more flexible working and a more relaxed dress code during the summer months. The TUC’s suggestions include allowing people to travel to work at different times, work from home, wear casual clothing and for employers to provide cool drinks.
Of course, the extent to which this is practically possible largely depends on the workplace itself. Employers operating in professional services environments may be reluctant to allow their staff to dress in a casual manner and businesses with workers on construction sites have a health and safety consideration to bear in mind.
If an employer does choose to implement a more casual dress code on a temporary basis they should be mindful of applying it equally across the board e.g. if they are going to allow women to wear short skirts with no tights they should not insist on men wearing trousers.
Working flexibly could work well to allow employees some relief from the heat. For example, people who undertake physical work outside may be able to start and finish earlier to allow them to avoid working through the hottest part of the day. However any changes to work patterns should be documented and it should be made clear that the arrangement is on a temporary basis. Before offering flexible working arrangements employers should consider their business needs and whether it is viable to have the majority of the workforce working flexibly over the summer.
Employers whose staff work outside a lot of the time may wish to consider providing their workers with sun protection (e.g. sun cream, hats, sunglasses) to manage the risks of them developing a condition as a result of sun exposure.
If you have an idea about how to provide a comfortable working environment during the summer and would like any advice in relation to this please contact the employment team.