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Don’t let your office go into meltdown this summer!

It looks set to top 30 degrees across the UK this week, and toiling away in stifling hot offices can leave many wondering – how high does the temperature need to go before it becomes too hot to work?

But is it that simple? What are your rights when it comes to temperatures in the workplace, and what should you do if you’re worried about it?

Is there a legal maximum office temperature? 

The Workplace Regulations Act 1992 state that during workplace hours, the temperature within all workplaces inside buildings should be ‘reasonable.’ However, a specific temperature has not been identified.

Whilst a precise temperature is not defined by the legislation, it does provide general guidelines as to what the minimum office temperature should be:

For workplaces where the activity is mainly sedentary, the temperature should normally be at least 16 degrees…”

For maximum temperatures, it is generally accepted that anything over 30 degrees in the UK workplace is unacceptable.

Should I send my staff home if the temperature gets too high? 

This is a difficult question to answer as there is no legal maximum temperature stipulated. However, if a number of employees are complaining of thermal discomfort, it would be good business practice to ensure that you investigate and carry out a risk assessment.

Employees that are considered vulnerable in the heat – such as pregnant women, those with long term conditions or undergoing medical treatment such as chemotherapy, or employees undergoing the menopause – should be given special consideration.

Essentially, the decision to shut an office and allow staff to go home, or else to authorise remote working for a set period of time, is an individual one. Assess the way that your business normally functions, and whether allowing staff to work from home during a heatwave could be a viable option.

What adjustments does the TUC suggest businesses make? 

To keep the workplace as comfortable as possible, the TUC suggests that employers could:

  • Allow staff to adopt less formal attire – with jackets off, and casual lightweight clothes
  • Ensure that outdoor workers have sunscreen and water, and are given advice on the need to protect themselves from the heat and sun.
  • Distribute fans to staff and provide portable air cooling cabinets.
  • Allow flexible working so that staff have the option of coming in earlier and staying later to avoid the hottest times of the day, and the rush hour commute
  • Allow staff to take frequent breaks, and provide a ready supply of cool drinks

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