July and August have been glorious but what obligation do you have to your staff to ensure that they remain comfortable as the hot weather intensifies?
We’re now heading well into August (where has this year gone?) and whilst there has been the inevitable British flash floods; we’ve also had quite a few sizzling hot days. Not all of us have the luxury of air conditioning and even for organisations that do, it can often prompt an on-going war about the optimum temperature on the dial.
An average day-and-night temperature of 16.3C made July this year the joint eighth-warmest since records began. With the mercury rising, you may receive requests to go home or be told that the law protects employees from working in unacceptably hot temperatures. So what is a manager to do when the temperature rises?
Let’s start with the facts. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 sets out rules about minimum workplace temperatures – which should be at least 16°C where work is sedentary and 13°C where some form of physical effort is involved.
However, looking at the other end of the spectrum, the law is actually silent on a specific maximum workplace temperature. Instead, it states that the temperature at work should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing. As such, despite what your team may suggest, they have no right to automatically leave when the thermostat creeps up. As such, you are well within your rights to turn down any requests along these lines.
That said, good managers should always take any complaints about heat seriously - particularly as it affects some people more than others (e.g. pregnant workers). We also recommend where possible putting measures in place to alleviate discomfort:
· Insulating hot pipes;
· Providing air-cooling plants;
· Providing fans or installing air conditioning
· Shading windows;
· Positioning workstations away from places subject to heat.
It seems strange to write this, knowing that in three months’ time we’ll be huddled in our big coats and hats, looking back at these months nostalgically and wishing for a glimpse of sunshine. Whilst moaning about the weather (hot or cold) is a national hobby, it’s important to strike a balance between making your staff comfortable and not allowing them carte blanche to escape work and head to that sun trapped beer garden on a scorching Friday afternoon. Ensuring that your workplace is set up to create a comfortable atmosphere for your staff, whatever the season, will improve staff motivation all year round.
For help dealing with any issues raised in this blog, please contact us.