How hot does it need to be before staff can go home? Your warm weather at work questions answered

How hot does it need to be before staff can go home? Your warm weather at work questions answered
Hot weather can make working conditions unbearable (Photo: Shutterstock)

With the country currently experiencing good weather, Brits have been making the most of the scorching temperatures and getting into barbecue season a little earlier this year.

But while the hot weather is great for spending time outdoors, it can make working conditions slightly unbearable.

What employers need to know

When warm weather strikes, there are a few things employers need to be aware of to ensure their staff can continue to work efficiently, as Alan Price, Peninsula Employment Law Director, explains.

There is no maximum workplace temperature

Many employees believe there is a maximum workplace temperature set by the law which, once reached in the summer, means they’re entitled to be sent home from work.

Health and Safety Regulations simply require workplace temperatures to be “reasonable”, according to the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992.

This applies all year round, but it can cause an issue when temperatures outside increase and result in warmer workplaces.

Easy steps like using portable desk fans can help to make working conditions more comfortable (Photo: Shutterstock)
Easy steps like using portable desk fans can help to make working conditions more manageable (Photo: Shutterstock)

How to work out a reasonable temperature

Whether the temperature is “reasonable” will depend on the type of work and the nature of the workplace.

For example, is the work manual labour taking place outside?

Undertaking a risk assessment will help assess these factors to determine a reasonable workplace temperature, and expert guidance can also be used to advise on this.

Employers should also speak to staff to gain a majority view of a comfortable working temperature.

Implementing a summer dress code will help staff to feel more comfortable at work (Photo: Shutterstock)
Implementing a summer dress code will help staff to feel more comfortable at work (Photo: Shutterstock)

Relaxing the dress code

Most companies have a dress code in place to help portray a certain image or brand to their customers.

Whilst business dress is a popular option, wearing suits or formal clothing can be extremely uncomfortable over the summer months, especially in warmer workplaces or during the daily commute.

Having a summer dress code, or informing staff that the normal dress code is relaxed, will help staff feel more comfortable in the office.

It will still be important to have some rules in place – for example, a summer dress code can require business dress, but state that men do not have to wear ties.

When it comes to dress codes and any relaxation of the rules, employers need to make sure they apply equivalent rules to men and women, according to the Equality Act 2010.

Staff complaints

Rather than ignoring staff complaints about the temperature, employers should take step to address these before they result in formal grievances.

Easy, but effective, steps can include using portable desk fans, or moving employees away from air conditioning units.

Employers may also be under a legal obligation to make workplace adjustments where a disabled employee has a medical condition which makes them feel the heat more, or the cold when air conditioning is turned up.

Perks such as ice lollies, cold drinks or summer snacks can help to show employers value and appreciate their staff (Photo: Shutterstock)
Perks such as ice lollies, cold drinks or summer snacks can help to show employers value and appreciate their staff (Photo: Shutterstock)

Ice lollies – and getting fresh air

It’s easy for staff to feel less engaged when it’s nice weather outside and they have to be at work, which can lead to employees calling in sick to embrace the hot weather while it lasts.

Taking simple steps to show employers value and appreciate their staff during hot weather will help perk up employees and reduce absenteeism.

These steps can include providing ice lollies, cold drinks or summer snacks to members of staff.

Working Time Regulations 1998 states employers should also encourage workers to take their lunch break, so they can take some time away from their workstation and get some fresh air.

Additionally, early finish incentives providing certain targets are met will help raise productivity as staff wish to make the most of their longer evenings.

If employers want to take action for weather related absence or lateness, they should ensure they stick to the rules on fair dismissals (Employment Rights Act 1996 and ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures).