Summertime Blues: Hot Temperatures and Employment Law
Summer is here. There is an official heatwave. The roads are melting and so, if you were to believe them, are some employees But What does employment law say about working in rising temperatures? Surprisingly little is the answer.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states the employer should maintain a reasonable workplace temperature, but it doesn't specify a maximum temperature. Although the law doesn't state a minimum temperature, the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius, or 13 degrees Celsius if a lot of the work is physical. Although, these temperatures are not a legal requirement, the employer has a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances. The reasonable level will depend on the nature of the workplace such as a bakery, an office, or a warehouse.
With such little guidance in place it is unsurprising that there is no legal obligation on an employer to provide air conditioning. That said employers may consider investing in some fans as a means of keeping productivity up.
Allied to increased temperatures is the all too common dispute over what is appropriate clothing during the warmer months.
Many employers have dress codes in place to portray a professional standard or a particular image. Employers are entitled to rely on dress codes and explain what is appropriate to staff. However, they may allow a relaxation of the rules when temperatures climb.
Employers should also remember that under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 that they are obliged to provide an "adequate supply of wholesome drinking water", and that it be readily available at suitable and clearly marked places. This could be provided either with a supply of suitable cups, or as a drinking fountain. There is no obligation on the employer to provide chilled water.
How can employees help themselves?
As obvious as it sounds drinking plenty of water can help keep employees cool. However, drinking tea or coffee can have the opposite effect, not because of the fact that tea or coffee is a hot drink but because the caffeine can cause an increase in heart rate which causes temperature increases.
Although we would all like to revel in glorious sunshine a further option might be to keep blinds shut to keep the sun out and temperatures down.
Finally, as odd as it may look, try running your wrist under a cold tap. The water will cool the blood in your veins and will lower your temperature.
For employers and employees alike the message is be sensible and try to keep cool as best you can.
Enjoy the weather while it lasts….