Hot under the collar

It’s mid-summer and there is a real chance of sizzling temperatures between the cold wet spells we have experienced recently. It’s the time of the year when our 24 Hour Advisory Service receives numerous calls about managing employees during a heatwave.

Employers should be aware that despite popular belief there is no maximum workplace temperature, which once reached, gives employees the right to be sent home from work. Instead legislation simply states workplace temperatures should remain reasonable from a health and safety perspective.

However, this does not mean you should dismiss complaints to moderate workplace temperatures. Employers are encouraged to carry out a risk assessment to determine the specific challenges rising temperatures pose to their own workforce. The potential for risks will likely differ depending on the type of work and the nature of the workplace. Special consideration should also be paid to more vulnerable staff members including pregnant and disabled employees who may be disproportionally affected by the heat.

Employers are strongly encouraged to acknowledge the complaints of disgruntled employees, making efforts to improve the working environment, before these complaints develop into formal grievances.  Where air conditioning is available this should be checked in advance to make sure it is in good working order. Employers unable to provide this privilege could alternatively attempt to make the workplace more comfortable by providing suitable desk fans.

Summertime temperatures can often increase drastically without much notice, meaning staff may want to book annual leave on short notice to take advantage of the warmer weather. Employers are advised to follow standard holiday booking procedures, including reminding staff of the need to request holidays with sufficient notice to avoid disappointment. However, to appease staff and show a level of understanding, some may consider relaxing rules surrounding the number of employees who may be off at any one time.

There are a number of suitable accommodations that employers can make to keep workplace morale and productivity levels high. Cheap perks such as providing cold refreshments and ice lollies can help create a fun and jovial atmosphere. Additionally, granting longer lunch breaks and early finishes as performance incentives will be especially useful as employees will be keen to enjoy as much of the warm weather as possible.

Where possible, employers may also relax rules surrounding dress codes and uniforms as formal wear can be particularly uncomfortable during warmer weather. However, those who work in a customer-facing setting may wish to lay down ground rules on suitable clothing to avoid any potential pitfalls.

Overall it is important that employers plan accordingly ahead of upcoming the summer months. Whilst suitable measures to accommodate staff and maintain productivity may differ from one organisation to the next, it is vital that employers take a proactive and measured approach to lessen the impact of rising temperatures.

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