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Heat wave in the work place
July 14, 2022

Weather conditions are set to change this week, with the Met Office forecasting heatwaves throughout and temperatures looking to soar to 37 degrees in some parts of the UK early next week. 

Unlike other European countries where it is normal for work to stop in the middle of the day during the hot summer and restart later in the day when it is cooler, the UK workforce will be expected to battle on in the heat.  But is there anything that employers can do to help?

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) who oversees Trade Unions across the UK have urged employers to make adjustments to the workplace in order to accommodate employees during these hot weather conditions. 

Hot weather causes many disadvantages for workers, not only can it lead to health issues such as dehydration, but outdoor workers are at a much higher risk of developing skin cancer (with them being 3 times more likely to develop the illness than on average).  Apart from health and safety, there is also a question over how productive employees can be in hot conditions.

Currently, there is no proposed law which governs a legal maximum temperature for the workplace, however, the employers must still ensure that the workplace temperature is “reasonable”, with 16 degrees as a minimum guideline.  They are also under a duty to provide a safe place of work.

37 ministers from the House of Commons have also signed a motion which, if successful, would implement a legal duty upon employers to take reasonable action for the wellbeing of their employees such as having ventilation installed, and allowing employees to be away from areas which causes excessive heat in temperature. 

The TUC boss Frances O’Grady says ‘nobody should be made to suffer in the heat for the sake of keeping up appearances’. 

What can employers do to support their employees in the heatwave? 

Employers are encouraged to allow their employees to have later starts or finish early in order to avoid the extreme heat when commuting. Employers should also consider giving their employees flexible hours or work from home options if possible, as well as a more relaxed dress code in these conditions. 

Other measures could include providing ice creams or cooling drinks to keep people cool through the day. 

Small measures like this can be key to employee wellbeing and engagement which ultimately contributes to business success, so well worth implementing.