How hot is too hot to work in the UK? Plus rules on changing hours, ditching ties and office wear

ByJon Doe

Jul 11, 2022
Workers have complained they are uncomfortable in the heat as temperatures reach highs of up to 33C in the heatwave (stock image)

How hot is TOO hot to work? Rules on changing work hours, ditching ties and office air conditioning revealed as temperatures in the UK soar to 33C

  • Temperatures in the UK are set to hit highs of 33C (91F) today and on Tuesday
  • Many people have taken to Twitter to express it is ‘too hot to work’ 
  • Health and Safety Executive has published guidance on heat in the workplace

UK employees are claiming it is ‘too hot to work’ as the mercury soars to 33C (91F) around the country today.

As forecasters predict the same temperature tomorrow, 29C (84F) on Wednesday and 28C (82F) on Thursday, many are suggesting it is simply too hot to be working.

Some Twitter users have claimed they have had appointments cancelled due to the hot weather while others have suggested the commute is too unbearable in the heat.

But how hot is too hot to work and what rights do workers have amid soaring temperatures?

Workers have complained they are uncomfortable in the heat as temperatures reach highs of up to 33C in the heatwave (stock image)

CAN YOU LEAVE WORK IF IT’S TOO HOT? 

While there is a minimum working temperature set in UK law of 16C (60.8F), at the moment there is no set maximum working temperature. 

This means an employee does not have a legal right to ask to go home early when the sizzling heat kicks in. 

However, employers do have a responsibility to ensure their workers are comfortable – which includes helping them to keep cool.

IS IT COMPULSARY FOR THERE TO BE AIR CON IN THE WORKPLACE? 

In particular, employers have to make sure that in offices or working environments, the temperature is ‘reasonable’ for those using it.

The concept, known as ‘thermal comfort’, means companies have to ensure the working temperature is at a comfortable level – while also ensuring they provide clean and fresh air.

The Health and Safety Executive says there are six basic factors that can cause temperature discomfort.

These are: Air temperature, radiant temperature, air velocity, humidity, clothing insulation and metabolic heat. 

When it comes to heat that is generated by the nature of the work being carried out (for example, in manufacturing industries), employers also have a responsibility to manage the heat effectively.

The HSE gives advice on how employers should ensure their workers remain comfortable at work as temperatures rise.

One method is controlling the temperature through the use of air conditioning units or use an air dehumidifyer.

It also recommends making sure employees aren’t left in an environment where they will be exposed to extreme temperatures for too long.

SHOULD THERE BE FLEXIBILITY ON DRESS CODE OR UNIFORMS? 

The HSE recommends employers evaluate their dress codes so workers can adapt the clothing they wear to work so they are more comfortable.

In 2018 the Trades Union Congress urged employers to let their workers ditch smarter dress such as trousers and ties during a heatwave.

It also encouraged them to let workers change their hours when the mercury rises.

In a report urging the Health and Safety Executive to establish a maximum temperature for a workplace, the TUC said the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers recommended an average temperature of 20C (XXF) for an office.

WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO TO HELP? 

Speaking to MailOnline HR expert Rachel Suff said: ‘Where possible, employers should be flexible with working arrangements and allow people to work from home in very hot weather if they will be more comfortable and productive at home.’

She added: ‘In a heatwave some workplaces, such as old buildings or those with a lot of glass, can become extremely hot and employers need to be aware of the health risks.’

‘People’s health and safety should be first and foremost and employers should be particularly mindful of people with a disability or health condition as the heat can make them particularly vulnerable.

‘The heat can affect people’s level of concentration and cause fatigue, which may have health and safety implications for people working in some jobs such as safety-critical roles.

‘Employers need to make sure the workplace is as cool as possible and provide fans if there’s no aircon. Relaxing a strict uniform code could also help people to be more comfortable.’

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By Jon Doe