As the temperature looks set to soar further in the coming days, the question of when it becomes too hot to work is inevitably on many people’s minds. Under current UK law, there are rules around minimum working temperatures, but no maximum limit.
With the Met Office having issued a level three heat health alert, highlighting the potential implications and danger of the forthcoming heatwave, should employers be planning ahead?
While the UK is not typically known for a tropical climate, global warming means heatwaves are likely to become more frequent and intense. Establishing a long-term strategy for working during such periods will stand employers in good stead for the future.
How employers address such extremes of temperature will ultimately depend on the nature of their business and what they require of their workforce. Those with staff based outside, for example, will have very different considerations to organisations with a predominantly office-based workforce.
First and foremost, employers should consider whether it remains safe for employees to continue to work, particularly during the hottest hours of the day. Some councils, for example, have advised that refuse collections may be delayed during the coming heatwave in order to protect workers. If staff are expected to work outside for any period of time, employers should ensure an adequate supply of drinking water and sun screen is available.
If staff are not limited to only working in one specific location, employers could consider offering them the option to working remotely, and/or implementing flexible hours in order to avoid doing so during the hottest part of the day. Such an approach would also enable employees to avoid uncomfortable commutes, particularly using public transport that is not air conditioned. Some may also value the opportunity to structure their day to work during cooler evening hours when it may be easier to concentrate.
Of course, this will not be suitable for all roles, so employers should ensure they take steps to keep the working environment at a comfortable temperature.
Extreme temperatures can also be an opportunity for employers to use some fun initiatives to boost employee engagement. Cold treats or competitions to find the most unique way employees are keeping cool, for example, can help to build a sense of camaraderie among teams.
Stay safe and enjoy the sun!