Keeping the company cool when temperatures soar

Employmentindividual

The world is on track for the hottest year since records began according to NASA, and scorching temperatures look to set to return to the UK with 30°C forecasts for late August.

For those heading to work, rather than the seaside, they may be asking employers ‘how hot is too hot?’ in their working environment, or wondering whether delayed or cancelled trains mean they can take the day off.

The benchmark often given is that people work best in temperatures between 16°C and 24°C, but in the UK there is no fixed minimum or maximum temperature requirement for the workplace. Instead, the Health & Safety Executive say that it should be ‘reasonable’. Defining whether a temperature is reasonable will depend on the type of work and workplace. It means that an office where workers are generally sitting down will need to be warmer than a factory where strenuous manual labour is going on. Similarly, a food cold store or a bakery will each take temperatures to extremes that wouldn’t be reasonable in other environments, and may require protective clothing.

Explained Jane Crosby, Employment expert with Hart Brown Solicitors: “For any company that doesn’t have a clear policy on extreme weather, which covers everything from summer heatwaves to winter snowstorms, this hot spell is another prompt to undertake risk management in this area. What comes out of that will determine any special provisions that may be needed.

“What’s important is having a clear policy that everyone knows about and then being consistent in how it is applied. It doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly the same for everyone, as some groups may need special treatment, but it needs to be fair.”

Getting to work
Generally, hot weather shouldn’t be a reason to avoid travelling to work, but public transport does occasionally grind to a halt in extreme temperatures and it’s worth having a policy in place so that staff know what they should do if cancellations are expected or delays happen. As with working conditions, for some groups of workers it may be appropriate to make special provisions.

Special cases
Special consideration should be made for anyone who may experience greater problems in extreme temperatures because of medical or other conditions. If someone is pregnant or on medication, they may need more frequent rest breaks and be given a personal solution, such as a portable fan or air cooling unit, if there is no fixed air conditioning. Similarly, those working under direct sunlight, or in specialist protective clothing, may need special consideration, as working outside without adequate protection may increase the risk of skin cancer and working in heavy protective clothing could increase the risk of dehydration.

Encourage wellbeing
It’s important to avoid dehydration in hot weather, so it’s a good idea to make sure there is easy access to drinking water and encourage staff to swap their morning coffee for a cool drink. The average recommended daily water intake of 2 litres for women and 2.5 litres for men should be increased during heatwaves. It’s also worth reminding everyone to avoid heavy meals and to stay out of the midday sun, both of which can lead to health issues, such as plummeting blood pressure or sun stroke.

Mood management
And finally, it’s worth making sure that managers watch out for tempers that rise together with the temperature. The connection between hotter than average weather and higher levels of aggression is generally acknowledged, even if the reason why it happens is still up for debate, with physiological and psychological reasons in the mix. At the other extreme, high temperatures can mean a loss of concentration and increased tiredness, making workers more likely to put themselves or others at risk.

She added: “Also, for companies with a strict dress policy, it may be worth considering offering a dress-down option during hot weather. It doesn’t have to mean you end up with a beach code, but could make a major difference to comfort levels for staff, which will have a direct impact on the dynamics in the workplace.”

The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers recommends the following temperatures for different working areas:
• Heavy work in factories: 13°C
• Light work in factories: 16°C
• Hospital wards and shops: 18°C
• Offices and dining rooms: 20°C

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Share

Jane Crosby

Partner, Dispute Resolution

Jane is an employment and commercial litigation solicitor of more than 15 years' experience. Prior to entering the legal profession, Jane was employed in the...

Partner, Dispute Resolution

Jane Crosby

Jane is an employment and commercial litigation solicitor of more than 15 years' experience.

Prior to entering the legal profession, Jane was employed in the aviation industry. This experience is appreciated by many of Jane's clients who note that she is able to take a commercial and pragmatic approach to any legal issue that they face.

Jane acts for a wide range of individuals and businesses and her areas of specialism include aviation, property related industries and IT. Jane regularly advises on aspects of employment law, such as settlement agreements, employment contracts, policies and procedures, redundancies, equal pay, data protection, issues arising from TUPE and reorganisations, the calculation of holiday pay, bonus and commission payments, disciplinary and grievance issues, dismissal and termination issues, the protection of confidential information and the enforcement of restrictive covenants. Jane gets involved in GDPR training for her clients and she is able to deliver tailored employment law training sessions upon request.

As a commercial litigation lawyer, Jane also deals in shareholder and directors disputes, commercial contract disputes and the enforcement of restrictive covenants.

Jane has been involved in successful high value commercial litigation for clients in the High Courts, she is an accredited mediator and she is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.

Jane is often asked to write for a number of well known publications, including The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Week and she has been interviewed on BBC Radio 4.

Here is small selection of the feedback that Jane has received:

“Jane, I cannot sincerely thank you enough for your wise counsel and am delighted to have made your acquaintance. If I am blessed with a new position somewhere I will hand over my contract in the first instance to you. Likewise, any of my friends, peers, romans and countrymen wanting advice, I will point them in your direction.”

“Jane, you have been most resilient on my behalf for which I sincerely thank you for all your endeavours. I have a tremendous working relationship with Hart Brown and you have undoubtedly compounded this further."

“I appreciated the clarity of advice given at a stressful time”.

“A sensitive and highly professional approach and efficient work in the interests of the client”.

“Your advice, conduct and assistance have been indeed outstanding and very professional but also – and most importantly – very humane”.

Head Office

Resolution House
Riverview
Walnut Tree Close
Guildford
Surrey
GU1 4UX

Your Local Office

Guildford - 01483 887766
Cobham - 01932 576789
Cranleigh - 01483 887515
Godalming - 01483 887766
Woking - 01483 887766

Hart Brown Solicitors is the trading name of Hart Brown LLP registered in England and Wales No. OC 425835 whose registered office is Resolution House, Riverview, Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, GU1 4UX and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) No. 658593. Members: N Maud, T Pearce, D Knapp, R Campbell and P Grimwood, Partners: J Crosby, L Harrhy, J Jupp, J Lamont, T Mandelli, V McMurtrie, E Moore, S Osborne, S Powell, G Sanders and E Wiggins.

Any reference to a partner in relation to Hart Brown LLP means a member or an employee with the title of Partner of Hart Brown LLP.

© Copyright Hart Brown LLP 2019 - All Rights Reserved. VAT registration no. 211372705