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Extreme heat warning: What does the law say on employee rights during hot weather?

hot office

THE Met Office has issued its first ever extreme heat warning for the UK – leaving many of us across the borough sweltering.

Areas of Arnold, Gedling and Netherfield have this week been hotter than Canary Islands, Mexico City and Lisbon – with temperatures reaching up to 32C.

This extreme heat can be especially unbearable for people in their working environment so Gedling Eye asked Laura Kearsley, a partner and solicitor in the employment team at East Midlands-based Nelsons, to explain what the law says on employee rights during hot weather.

Here’s what the law has to say:

Can I leave my workplace if it becomes too hot?

Not unless you feel unwell and you need to take sick leave. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 places a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” working temperature in the office. Your employer has a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances.

Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?

In addition, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees. The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should consider when doing risk assessments.

Does my boss have to legally provide air conditioning in the office?

No, they do not. Where working temperatures are uncomfortable, employers should consider:

  • Using fans or air conditioning if available
  • Providing cool water in the workplace and encouraging workers to drink it to prevent dehydration
  • Modifying the dress code requirements if appropriate.

However, sensible employers will use mobile air conditioning units and fans to keep workers cool. If you have other suggestions for how your employer could make working in the warm weather more comfortable, you should pass these on.

Is it acceptable for me to wear shorts and flip flops in the office during warm weather? What will happen if I defy my employer?

Your employer may change dress code requirements in warmer weather if this is appropriate. However, they are still entitled to insist on certain standards of appearance – particularly for customer-facing roles and for shoes and clothing to be sensible for health and safety reasons.

Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?

The general duties for employers to treat employees with trust and confidence apply throughout the employment relationship.  At times of hot weather and uncomfortable working conditions, employers will need to be considerate to employees – after all, if staff are too hot, they won’t be at their most productive.

For more information or to speak to a member of Nelsons’ employment team, please visit www.nelsonslaw.co.uk/employee-rights.

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