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Is it too hot to work? A HR Guide to Working Temperatures & the Law

It’s hot, summer is finally here and the burning question on everyone’s lips is “Is it too hot to work?”

Whether you work in an air-conditioned office, a school, a factory or even outdoors as the temperature rises, so do levels of irritability with everyone thinking the same “Is it too hot to work?”

In the UK, according to ” indoor workplace temperatures must be reasonable” but from an HR Manager’s perspective, that’s not clear.

Can employees go home if it’s too hot or not?

The answer is complicated because legally there is no law for maximum working temperatures. Employers, however, must ensure they abide by Health and Safety rules, which does include keeping the temperature at a comfortable level and providing clean and fresh air.

According to the HSE: “A meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries.”

Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment, states that: “During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.”

“If a significant number of employees are complaining about thermal discomfort, your employer should carry out a risk assessment, and act on the results of that assessment,” the HSE explains.

Click here for HSE’s Frequently Asked Questions on Working Temperatures

The Independent asked TUC, who represent 5.6 million workers across 50 unions “Is it too hot to work?”

“The TUC has called for a maximum workplace temperature of 30C for non-manual work and 27C for manual work. Which means you would be automatically sent home if the workplace temperature exceeded it.

Until then though, the situation is far less clear cut.

The TUC also wants to see an obligation on employers to start taking measures to cool a workplace when it reaches 24C.

And while many employers will let staff dress more casually in the summer heat, the TUC wants this written into law.”

So the answer to “Is it too hot to work?”, although not straightforward is simple. If staff are complaining it is unbearable to work, and as a HR manager you believe working conditions are too hot, then make a discretionary adjustment to working conditions. Offer staff the opportunity to work flexibly, or take annual leave (if it doesn’t significantly affect operations).

For more tips on coping with the heatwave in the workplace, take a look at our blog: How to Keep Staff Motivated and Cool During a Heatwave

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