Enter your email address to stay in touch

Hot and bothered?

Is your office too hot?
Amanda Campbell, Monday, June 19th, 2017

You know what it can be like at work – one person feels boiling hot, another is wearing their hat and scarf – the temperature is never exactly right.


But in this current heatwave with the temperatures soaring into the 30s, it’s more important than usual that workers are in a comfortable environment.


While there is no legal maximum temperature, the health and safety executive (HSE) the temperature under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 must be “reasonable”.


Obviously what you’re wearing can make a difference and the TUC is calling on employers to temporarily relax workplace dress codes to help their staff work through the heatwave as comfortably as possible.


The sudden increase in temperatures means that many workplaces may become unbearably hot, warns the TUC.


For many years the TUC has been pushing for a change in safety regulations to introduce a new maximum temperature of 30˚ – or 27˚C for those doing strenuous work – with employers obliged to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24˚C.


The TUC are advising employers to let their staff ‘dress down’ and wear more suitable casual clothing.  Common sense should prevail. Out are heavy suit jackets, ties and long sleeves – and similar attire more suited to cooler times.


While it may not be possible for staff who regularly attend meetings with external clients, who deal with the public or who wear company uniforms to turn up to work in vest and shorts, so long as employees are smartly turned out, it should be possible to agree on a dress code that fits with the corporate image and helps keep staff cool.


Bosses who provide cool and comfortable work environments will get more out of their staff when it’s sweltering, believes the TUC.


Where workers are able to dress in cool summer clothing, and where there’s air-conditioning, fans and cold drinking water, workers will feel less lethargic, and have more energy, inspiration and creativity.


TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said, “It’s no fun working in a baking office or factory and employers should do all they can to take the temperature down. Clearly vest tops and shorts are not suitable attire for all front line staff, but those not dealing with the public should be able to discard their tights, ties and suits.


“Extreme heat can be as unpleasant to work in as extreme cold, and so long as the UK has no legal maximum working temperature, many workers will be working in conditions that are not just personally unpleasant, but will also be affecting their productivity.


“With temperatures set to soar this week, now is the time for employers to relax the dress code rules temporarily and allow their staff to dress down. Making sure that everyone has access to fans, portable air conditioning units and cold drinking water should help reduce the heat in offices, factories, shops, hospitals, schools and other workplaces across the country.”


To keep work cool, the TUC would like to see employers:

  • allow staff to adopt less formal attire – with jackets and ties out, and short sleeves, vest tops and shorts in
  • distribute fans to staff and provide portable air cooling cabinets
  • install air conditioning and maintain it regularly, so that it doesn’t break down during a heatwave
  • allow flexible working so that staff can have the option of coming in earlier and staying later to avoid the sweltering conditions of the rush hour commute
  • move desks away from windows, draw blinds or install reflective film
  • allow staff to take frequent breaks and provide a ready supply of cool drinks.Unite National Health and Safety Adviser Susan Murray agrees with the TUC’s campaign. She told UNITElive, “Employers have a duty to ensure their employees’ health, safety and welfare while they are at work.   This includes ensuring that they are are not exposed to unreasonably high temperatures at work. What is needed now is a legally enforceable maximum temperature for all workplaces.”


The Unite website has lots of information about temperatures at work. For more visit Unite website


Related Articles