Q- Several clients have asked me about the recent hot weather and if staff have a right to be sent home when it is too hot. Before summer starts, can you help clarify this?
A- Given the recent upturn in weather staff may be forgiven for looking wistfully out of the window longing to enjoy the British sunshine before the inevitable downpours return.There is a common theory amongst employees that they have the legal right to leave work if the workplace reaches a certain temperature, however, this is not the case. Instead, the Health and Safety Regulations state that workplace temperatures must remain ‘reasonable’.
What is considered reasonable depends on the location and nature of the role, for example, a reasonable temperature in a kitchen is likely to be higher than in an office.Your client should evaluate the specific risks the impact of rising temperatures pose to their workforce before choosing to send employees home, including giving greater consideration to those who may be more vulnerable under these conditions such as pregnant and disabled employees. Disabled employees should be offered reasonable adjustments which can include prolonged breaks or amended work duties to help remove any adverse effects of the weather.
Although it may initially seem somewhat trivial clients should not underestimate the importance of acknowledging employees concerns regarding the temperature. Having managers hold a brief discussion with staff to acknowledge the legitimate problem the heat is causing and urging them to work together under these conditions will show empathy and help to defuse the situation.Your clients may also choose to relax rules surrounding formal dress codes and uniforms, providing these do not breach Health and Safety requirements. Working for long hours in formal wear can be restrictive and inconvenient during the summer months and relieving employees of this requirement will allow them to be more comfortable during work.
However, your clients may wish to set some ground rules to ensure employee’s attire remains appropriate for the working environment which is particularly important for those in customer facing roles. An alternative way to prevent unrest and keep staff motivated during warmer weather is to provide cheap perks.
Treats such as iced lollies and other cold refreshments are small affordable ways for clients to show appreciation for their employee’s efforts under these difficult conditions.Overall it is important that clients stay ‘cool’ as temperatures heat up and taking a positive approach to accommodate staff will help maintain usual service levels and guard against unrest and absenteeism.