Head of Employment, Tania Goodman, comments on the responsibility of employers to staff in the hot weather

24 Jul 2018

As the UK only experiences a heat wave about once every 40 years, there is no specific employment legislation to protect the workforce but there is advice from the Health and Safety Executive that temperatures should be reasonable for the type of work being carried out. Fine if you’re in a nice air-conditioned office but if not then invest in some high quality mobile fans and window blinds and make sure the water coolers are fully charged.

What if you’re laying bricks on a building site? Construction firms should make sure staff are wearing sun cream, have regular rest and water breaks and schedule the heaviest work for the coolest part of the day.

Commuting in the heat can be debilitating especially for more vulnerable workers such as those who are pregnant, elderly or on medication. Adopt an agile/flexible policy to enable people to work remotely or travel outside the peak rush hour where possible. Consider relaxing your dress code if its normally business attire. This does not mean wearing flip flops and Hawaiian shirts but removing the need for jackets and ties and encouraging lighter weight clothing. Be transparent in your expectations and have a written policy or at least send an email to all staff making it clear what is and is not acceptable.

When Ramadan falls over the summer many Muslims will fast during the daytime and not consume liquids including water. Be considerate and try to hold meetings in the morning before the impact of daytime fasting starts to take its toll and be open to suggestions for a temporary change to working hours if this can be reasonably accommodated.

Managers and HR should walk the floors and check in with staff to see if they are okay. This is partly a health and safety issue but also a morale boost and if you want to go the extra mile then why not try offering ice cream and lollies from time to time – it goes down very well in my firm!

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