Practical advice for employers during the heat wave

By KMC Human Resources

30 Jul 2018

Hot weather can be brilliant when you’ve got time off and are able to enjoy it. But having to go to work in high temperatures can be uncomfortable at least and depending on the type of working environment, can be almost unbearable.

With a further spell of hot weather forecast over the coming week, what do you need to bear in mind as an employer?

Keep an eye on the temperature

Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers are required to keep the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings at a ‘reasonable’ level.  In law, there is therefore not a specified maximum temperature that employers need to adhere to.

However, employers should be proactive in ensuring a ‘reasonable’ temperature is maintained in the workplace. There is no obligation to provide cooling devices such as air conditioning units or fans, but considering workers who get too hot will likely have lower productivity levels, it might make financial sense to buy or hire them. If there are other ways of reducing the temperature, such as opening windows or shutting blinds or curtains, then these should also be considered.

Ensuring staff have access to a regular supply of cool drinking water is sensible at any time of year, but especially during a heat wave.  If premises allow, how about setting up some outside seating in a shaded area where staff could enjoy rest breaks?  Or you might consider treating the team to ice-cream!

Travel considerations

Many employers forget that the time spent travelling to and from work is also covered by employment legislation. Public transport can be particularly hot and uncomfortable during heatwaves. Employers could consider encouraging car share schemes or allowing travel outside of core working hours when public transport is likely to be quieter.

Dress code

Although many employers have a dress code in place to ensure a professional or corporate image is maintained, certain items of clothing can further add to the effects of the heat. Jackets, trousers and ties can be particularly problematic and as such, an employer may decide to suspend their normal policy on company dress, especially on particularly hot days.

If an employer chooses to temporarily relax their dress code, they should give all employees advance notice in writing and still be specific about what is and is not acceptable.  Beware of discrimination too.

Even in hot weather, health and safety measures still need to be met, so depending on the type of workplace, it may not be possible to make changes to the workwear policy.

Be mindful of vulnerable workers

Where a company employs ‘vulnerable workers’, such as those with a disability, health concern or pregnant workers, any additional steps to counteract the hot temperatures should be considered. For example, additional rest breaks, providing fans and ensuring that ventilation is adequate, might be sensible allowances.

For more help or advice in relation to the heatwave, company dress codes or any other employment law matter, please contact us.

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