The current heatwave means that many parts of the UK are experiencing temperatures of up to 30 degrees, and even hotter in some cities.

Here, we look at what your rights are at work when it gets hot.

Hot weather and your rights

In the UK, there’s no legal maximum temperature for someone who’s at work. The government’s Health and Safety Executive says that a meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries.

Instead, the Executive says that temperatures in buildings should be ‘reasonable’. This leaves quite a lot of room for interpretation. If you’re in a restaurant kitchen, ‘reasonable’ will be quite a lot hotter than if you work in an office or shop.

Employers are under no obligation to provide specific systems, such as air conditioning. However, they are obliged to provide drinking water that you can access easily.

The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers recommends the following temperatures for different types of work:

  • Heavy work in factories: 13 degrees
  • Light work in factories: 16 degrees
  • Hospital wards and shops: 18 degrees
  • Offices and dining rooms: 20 degrees

Dress code

Many employers have a dress code, whether that’s something vague like ‘business dress’ or a specific uniform. According to ACAS (the workplace Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), your employer doesn’t have to relax the rules around the dress code if the weather is hot. However, some do.

If your employer doesn’t offer you the option of dressing in more hot weather-friendly clothes, ask them.

Hot weather and menopause

Women going through the menopause or perimenopause are likely to have more hot flushes in the summer. And they’re likely to feel (even) more uncomfortable.

Employers don’t have a specific duty towards someone who’s going through the menopause, in that it’s not automatically classed as a disability. However, they should respond positively if a woman who’s going through the menopause is having additional problems due to the hot weather.

Where to get advice

If a significant number of employees in your workplace are complaining that the working environment is too hot, your employer should carry out a risk assessment, and act on the results of that assessment.

If your employer turns down your requests to change the dress code, or take measures to reduce the temperature at work,, contact ACAS’s free helpline for information on what you can do, or talk to your union rep, if you’re a member of a union. You can ring ACAS for free on 0300 123 1100.

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