Given the recent hot temperatures, both the TUC and Acas have called on employers to temporarily relax workplace dress codes to help staff cope with workplaces that may have become unbearably hot.

Although there is a legal limit of 16°C below which workplace temperatures should not fall, there is no legal upper limit. The TUC has, however, been pushing for a change in safety regulations to introduce a new maximum temperature of 30°C – or 27°C for those doing strenuous work – with employers obliged to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24°C.

To help staff stay cool at work, the TUC suggests that employers:

  • allow staff to adopt less formal attire
  • distribute fans to staff and provide portable air cooling cabinets
  • install air conditioning and maintain it regularly, so that it doesn’t break down during a heatwave
  • allow flexible working so that staff can have the option of coming in earlier and staying later to avoid the sweltering conditions of the rush hour commute
  • move desks away from windows, draw blinds or install reflective film
  • allow staff to take frequent breaks and provide a ready supply of cool drinks.

ACAS guidance

Acas has also published guidance for employers on how to manage challenges at work due to the hot weather. Whilst recognising that employers are not under any obligation to relax their uniform or dress code requirements it recommends that they relax the rules for wearing ties or suits where possible.

It also advises employers to take particular care of vulnerable workers such as pregnant women or those on medication who may be more adversely affected by the hot weather. For instance, by giving them more frequent rest breaks and ensuring ventilation is adequate by providing fans or portable air cooling units.

With many Muslims currently observing Ramadan and therefore fasting during daylight hours, Acas suggests that employers hold meetings in the morning when people’s energy levels are higher or consider a temporary change in working hours.

Iain Birrell of Thompsons Solicitors commented “These sensible suggestions should be welcomed by everyone. No-one works well when they are uncomfortably hot and these suggestions represent a respectful approach which will better deliver the business objective and gain staff goodwill as well.”

To access the Acas full weather guidance, go to: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5349