That capricious thing the British Summer looks set to shine on us and send temperatures soaring in the coming days. We often hear it said that there’s no better place to live and work than the UK when the weather is nice. But, that doesn’t stop many of us asking – is it too hot for work? Or, Can we knock off early? As a business owner, you may have the answers because you can decide how to proceed.
Studies have shown that punctuality and absence levels deteriorate in sustained periods of hot weather as staff try to extend their weekends or lack motivation when it comes to battling a hot and sticky commute. Our advice is to remind them of their obligations to you and the business, but also be flexible if you can to make being at work less of a chore.
Things you may want to consider are more flexible working, relaxed dress codes or accommodating short notice holiday / unpaid leave requests. However, this needs to be communicated clearly to avoid creating a precedent that you may not want. You should also stress that any relaxation of dress code does not apply to any PPE that employees are obliged to wear for their own safety and security.
There isn’t a legally defined maximum temperature for working indoors or out. The .GOV website states that employers must keep indoor temperatures at a comfortable level and provide clean, fresh air (https://www.gov.uk/workplace-temperatures). Whether indoors or out, employers do have obligations under Health and Safety legislation and it is advised they conduct risk assessments on work places to ensure temperatures are reasonable.
If you have employees working outdoors in extreme temperatures you should take heed of the HSE report on the death of two Army reservists who died on a training session in 2013 which concluded that there had been a failure to plan, assess and manage risks associated with climatic illness during the training. Had the incident involved a business and not the MOD there may well have been prosecutions.
If it is a long hot summer (fingers crossed) our advice is to enjoy sensibly. Remind staff to hydrate (drink lots of water), protect themselves from excessive exposure (hats and sun cream) and try to make their working environment a good place to be.