As Britons today (July 26) swelter in the hottest day of the year so far – with temperatures soaring well over 30C in some parts of the country amid a relentless heatwave — Unite welcomed MPs’ call to introduce maximum working temperatures.
The environmental audit committee today (July 26) published a series of recommendations in a new report that they say are needed to combat rising workplace temperatures as global climate change makes extreme heat more and more likely.
Taking action, the report said, has become all the more urgent considering that in 2010 alone, 500 million staff days were lost due to overheating in temperatures over 26C, causing economic losses of £700m.
Employers should allow flexible working during times of hot weather, and they should relax dress codes, too, the MPs recommended. They also suggested changing building codes to keep people from overheating, among other measures.
But their key recommendation – one that Unite has long been lobbying for – is instituting maximum working temperatures.
“The government should make businesses aware of the developing threat of heatwaves and the economic consequences,” the report read.
“[It] should consult on introducing maximum workplace temperatures, especially for work that involves significant physical effort.”
The report comes just as UNITElive highlighted last week the plight of London bus drivers, who have to work in dangerously high temperatures in bus cabins without air-conditioning. Bus drivers are now lobbying London Mayor Sadiq Kahn to introduce maximum working temperatures.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady welcomed the environmental audit report.
“The law only gives minimum working temperatures, but the hot summer we’re having has shown the need for a maximum limit too,” she said. “It’s great to have support from MPs for this common sense policy, and we hope the government will take quick action.
“Meanwhile we encourage employers to keep on being sensible while the hot weather goes on. Relaxing dress codes and being flexible on working times to avoid the hottest part of the day can make things much easier.”
Unite national health adviser Bud Hudspith agreed.
“Unite believes that workers should be protected from having to work in uncomfortably hot conditions in the same way as they are protected from the cold,” he said. “For most workers, the main reason for heat exposure at work is high temperatures due to the weather, inadequate ventilation and so on.”
“These recommendations are very welcome. The government should now take urgent steps to meet these recommendations in full.”