What employers should do during a heatwave

24th July 2019

Temperature records could be broken this week, with those for hottest day in July and even hottest single day on record under threat.

For those going on holiday, this might sound rather appealing (potential harbingers for climate change notwithstanding). However, what of those of us who are stuck at work this week? Is an employer obligated to keep the temperature below a certain level? And what are their obligations to employees who are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat in the workplace?

Hannah Parsons, Head of Legal Advice at DAS Law, gives the lowdown on what employers and employees need to know.

Does an employer have to keep the office cool?

There is no law that sets a maximum temperature in a workplace. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 simply say that the temperature should be ‘reasonable’.

What is reasonable will vary according to the type of workplace, although there have been attempts to put pressure on the government to set a maximum working temperature.

The TUC called for the introduction of an upper limit of 24°C, at which point an employer would be required to take action, with an absolute maximum of 27°C, above which workers would not have to continue working and an employer would be liable for prosecution.

They have based their thinking on the WHO recommendation which is that 24°C is the maximum temperature for working in comfort.

However, that pressure has not resulted in any regulatory change, so employees who feel that their workplace is too warm should bring it to the attention of their employers, who should then consider what steps can and should be taken to address the issue.

So what should employers do?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests that an employer should monitor the ‘thermal comfort’ levels of employees, which describes their state of mind as to whether they feel too hot or cold. If there is an issue in relation to the thermal comfort of staff, an employer should consider carrying out a risk assessment of the workplace.

Additional steps should be taken for employees who are:

  • Pregnant;
  • Suffering from conditions; or
  • Taking medication particularly affected by temperature fluctuations.

For these categories of employee, care should be taken in the form of specific risk assessments, with adjustments to working conditions or practices made where appropriate.

The TUC have also offered advice on what employers can do to limit the negative effects of the heatwave on their staff. They suggest a variety of extra measures to keep workers cool and hydrated, from temporarily relaxing the dresscode to making fans and a steady supply of cold drinks available.

Where possible, they also recommend allowing flexible working, helping staff avoid the discomfort of a crowded and oppressively warm train or bus by arriving early or working late and avoiding peak commuting times.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.

Summer holiday clubs: your rights explained

What can you do if a plan to send your child to a summer holiday club goes awry due to sickness or cancellation? DAS Law investigates.

July 2019 Learn more
What you can do if someone parks outside your home and goes on holiday

Hannah Parsons looks at what you need to know if people are blocking your driveway for weeks on end.

July 2019 Learn more
Know your rights before buying ‘bargain’ holidays

How can you avoid becoming a victim of a holiday scam? And what if unforeseen circumstances force you to cancel a holiday that has already been paid for in advance?

May 2019 Learn more

Read more from the DAS Law blog

Employment disputes , Growing your business , Protecting your business , Setting up a business Farming tenancies: what you need to know

Mark Woodman, Solicitor at DAS Law, looks at what farmers need to know regarding a Farm Business Tenancy.

August 2020
Employment disputes Employing farm workers: what you need to know

Finding employees who will be a long-term asset for your business can be an arduous and stressful process. Here are the myriad rules and regulations that you need to be aware of from the outset.

August 2020
Employment disputes , Protecting your business What businesses need to do when coming out of Covid-19 lockdown

The government recently announced the easing of lockdown restrictions for many businesses across the country. Nevertheless, health & safety and social distancing measures still apply.

July 2020
Employment disputes , Protecting your business 6 tips for giving your business a “spring clean”

As we slowly exit lockdown, this is the ideal opportunity to spend some time giving your business a ‘spring clean’. Hayley Marles has six tips for a clean and tidy SME.

July 2020
Employment disputes Can employees refuse to return to work if they feel unsafe?

Can an employee refuse to return to work due to fears of contracting Covid-19? Where does the law stand if employees decide to ‘take a stand’?

July 2020
Employment disputes Flexible furlough: what you need to know

Employers are left trying to understand how the recently ‘flexible’ CJRS can be used as we come out of lockdown and more businesses reopen and bring back their workforces.

June 2020
Employment disputes Redundancy: an employer’s guide

Hayley Marles and Simon Roberts – both Senior Associates at DAS Law – look at what an employer needs to know about redundancy.

June 2020
Employment disputes Redundancy: an employee’s guide

Hayley Marles and Simon Roberts – both Senior Associates at DAS Law – look at what an employee needs to know about redundancy.

June 2020
Employment disputes , Protecting your business The return to work: a guide for employers

Lucy Kenyon looks at what employers need to consider when returning employees to work.

May 2020
Employment disputes The Job Retention Scheme: have you got it right?

DAS Law Associate Carly Owen looks at the latest developments regarding the government’s Job Retention Scheme.

May 2020
Employment disputes , Protecting your business Health and safety and computers

Employers need to manage the risks to their employees of working at computers for long periods of time. DAS Law’s Bethan Mack explains.

May 2020
Employment disputes ‘Self-isolation’ – what it means and its possible impact on your rights and pay

More and more people in the UK are being told to self-isolate to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus. What impact will this have on workers’ rights and pay?

February 2020
Employment disputes Do employees get extra pay on a leap year day?

Every four years, many workers find themselves cramming an extra day of work into an already packed year. But are workers in the UK entitled to extra pay for this extra work?

February 2020