What Does The Law Say On Employee Rights During Hot Weather?

This week the Met Office issued its first-ever extreme heat warning for the UK – with temperatures in some parts of the country reaching 32C. Whilst the hot temperatures are difficult for the majority of people, they can be especially difficult for those who are working in offices.

Laura Kearsley, Partner in our expert Employment Law team, outlines what the law says about workers’ rights during hot weather.

Workers rights during hot weather

Can an employee leave the workplace if it becomes too hot?

Not unless the employee feels unwell and needs to take sick leave. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 places a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” working temperature in the office. An employer has a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in particular circumstances.

Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?

In addition, The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires an employer to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees.

The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should consider when doing risk assessments.

Does an employer have to legally provide air conditioning in the office?

No, they do not. Where working temperatures are uncomfortable, employers should consider:

  • Using fans or air conditioning if available
  • Providing cool water in the workplace and encouraging workers to drink it to prevent dehydration
  • Modifying the dress code requirements if appropriate

However, sensible employers will use mobile air conditioning units and fans to keep workers cool. If an employee has other suggestions for how their employer could make working in the warm weather more comfortable, they should pass these suggestions on.

Is it acceptable for an employee to wear shorts and flip flops in the office during warm weather?

An employer may change dress code requirements in warmer weather if this is appropriate. However, they are still entitled to insist on certain standards of appearance – particularly for customer-facing roles and for shoes and clothing to be sensible for health and safety reasons.

Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?

The general duties for employers to treat employees with trust and confidence apply throughout the employment relationship.  At times of hot weather and uncomfortable working conditions, employers will need to be considerate to employees – after all, if staff are too hot, they won’t be at their most productive.

Workers Rights During Hot WeatherHow Nelsons can help

Laura Kearsley is a specialist employment law Partner at Nelsons.

For further information on the subjects discussed in this article or any related topics, please contact Laura or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.