Whilst we experience a break in the unexpected heat wave it is important that employers consider the impact that the recent increase in temperature had on their staff. The warmer weather can typically cause tensions in the workplace to ‘heat up’ and productivity levels to fall, therefore employers need to be aware of the options available to them to successfully manage their workforce in the future.
Despite popular belief it is important to note that 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 staff complaints regarding workplace temperatures out of hand. Instead, employers are encouraged to carry out risk assessments to determine the specific challenges rising temperatures can pose to their 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, as well as those that work outside in exposed sunlight, who may be disproportionally affected by the heat.
It is important to address any complaints in a proactive and considerate way before these 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 keep temperatures down by providing suitable desk fans.
Employers should also understand that for some employees getting to work in the first place could be problematic during the hot weather. As seen recently, rising temperatures can force train companies to limit the speed of trains in case the tracks buckle which may result in late arrivals for staff. In these situations, employers are encouraged to take a reasonable approach and consider allowing a brief period of flexible working until the temperatures subside.
Whilst at work, there are a number of accommodations employers can make to keep workplace morale and productivity high. Inexpensive perks such as providing cold refreshments can have a significant impact, helping to create a fun and jovial atmosphere despite the conditions. Additionally, relaxing rules surrounding dress codes and uniforms is often well received, particularly as formal wear can be especially uncomfortable during warmer weather. However, with this in mind those who work in a customer facing setting may wish to lay down ground rules on suitable clothing to avoid any potential pitfalls.
Whilst it is understood the extent to which employers can accommodate staff during the summer months can differ from one organisation to the next, those who make concerted efforts are likely to feel the benefits of an appreciative workforce. As there is not a universal solution to the problem, each employer should take a careful look at their existing practices and see where small changes can be made to make staff feel more comfortable at work.