As Britain experiences a record breaking heatwave, we thought we’d look at what happens in extreme heat and whether you can legally leave work for the day if it get’s too hot.
Currently, there is no legislation regarding the minimum and maximum temperatures in a workplace. The government does provide guidance for the minimum temperature which is 16°C (or 13°C for employees doing physical work). However, there is no maximum temperature guidance, which could cause issues on a hot summer’s day.
According to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, an employer has a legal obligation to ensure that the temperature in the workplace is “reasonable”. This includes keeping the temperature at a comfortable level and providing clean and fresh air within the workplace.
Health & Safety Executive (“HSE”)
Since there is no official limit in legislation, action will only be taken by the HSE if there are several employees/workers complaining about thermal discomfort. The HSE have explained that if lots of employees are complaining, the employer should carry out a risk assessment and in future act on the results from the risk assessment. Additionally, an employer should give extra consideration for any employees where additional protective equipment must be worn or if they are vulnerable to any additional discomfort caused from the heat.
During the recent heat waves, TUC (Trade’s Union Congress) have urged employers to allow workers to take frequent breaks to help them cool down. The TUC want to make it unlawful for employers to keep employees working indoors if temperatures go above 30°C. They have also suggested that there must be protection in place for outdoor workers and people working in vehicles to prevent the effects of the heat when temperatures exceed 30°C.
As it stands, none of the TUC’s comments have been put into legislation. However, the TUC have stated that “An employer must provide a working environment which is, as far as is reasonably practical, safe and without risks to health. In addition, employers must assess risks and introduce any necessary prevention or control measures”. This could enable an employee to leave their office when it’s too hot.
If you are struggling with the temperature in your work environment, it is crucial that you discuss this with your employer as soon as possible, so that possible alternatives or solutions can be explored to ensure your comfort during working hours.
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Please note this blog is for reference purposes only and is only accurate at the date it was published. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action. Please contact us if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org