The old adage states "if you can't stand the heat … get out of the kitchen". Those would seem wise words for those working in the catering / restaurant industry but what employment rights do employees have in a period of hot weather?
Although summertime in Scotland doesn't generally result in particularly hot temperatures there will be limited occasions when the sun does come out and workers find themselves working in hot conditions.
In the UK there is no maximum temperature that a workplace is allowed to be, rather advice from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) states "during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable". What is reasonable depends on the type of work being done (manual, office, etc) and the type of workplace (kitchen, air conditioned office, etc).
What's cooler than being cool?
Employers are not legally obliged to provide air conditioning in workplaces. Instead they are expected to provide reasonable temperatures.
In that respect the steps which employers can take will vary from employer to employer but practical steps might include turning on air conditioning if it is available or using blinds or curtains to block out sunlight.
However, employers must provide employees with suitable drinking water in the workplace. There is no requirement that the water is chilled.
Hawaiian shirts and shorts for all – can my boss tell me what to wear?
Yes, employers are allowed to tell their workers to dress in a particular way in the workplace, regardless of what the weather is like outside. This might be written into a contract or an employee handbook.
Although men in the workplace might feel unfairly treated if they are required to wear a tie the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that requiring men to wear a collar and tie did not necessarily amount to sex discrimination if that was the only way of achieving equal levels of smartness for men and women.
While employers are under no obligation to relax their dress code or uniform requirements during hot weather, some may allow workers to wear more casual clothes, or allow "dress down" days. Such days allow staff to dress more temperature appropriately and can be a useful way of bolstering morale.
As rarely as the sun shines in Scotland, hot weather can provide scope for issues in the work place. As temperature rise; so can tempers.
Employers should be sympathetic to their employee's needs but equally employees need to remember that they are getting paid by their employer to work – even if it is uncomfortable.
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If you would like to discuss this issue, or any other employment related matter, please get in touch with a member of our employment law team.