Lawyers have warned small firms need to take steps to keep staff safe as temperatures hit record levels.
Martin Williams, Head of Employment at Mayo Wynne Baxter, said that while there is a minimum working temperature of 16 degrees, there is currently no maximum working temperature. “This is because it is difficult to set an appropriate level for all types of business,” he says. “A kitchen or bakery is likely to reach a higher temperature far quicker than an office, for example.”
But small firms have a duty of care for their employees and need to take steps to ensure staff are not at risk of falling ill at work as a result of the hot weather.
“Apart from the fact that employees will be far from their most productive if they are uncomfortably hot, if a staff member were to become unwell because of the heat – especially those who are more susceptible due to health conditions – employers could find themselves facing a personal injury dispute,” he warns.
“Conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and arthritis can make working in the heat particularly challenging, so employers must take extra care and make necessary adjustments to keep staff safe.
“Businesses should consider workplace adjustments to help keep staff cool so they can do their jobs safely, including providing air-conditioning or electric fans and access to cold water. Employers could also consider relaxing any dress code rules on restrictive clothing or implementing a dress down policy during hot weather.
“When temperatures are extremely high, some businesses may want to implement more flexible working hours or encourage an early start and an earlier finish, so staff can avoid working during the hottest part of the day.”
Marcin Durlak, Managing Partner at IMD Solicitors, said employers should also make additional provisions for those carrying out manual work, particularly outside: “Employers should consider amending working hours where possible to avoid the midday sun; regular breaks and shaded areas; PPE which can be cooling and protective; providing plenty of water; as well as minimising the use of machinery that generates high temperatures for those operating or working around it.
“Implementing the above will mean your employees are more likely to carry out effective work, without compromising their health and wellbeing, minimising heavy business disruption from the hot weather.”