Are YOU too hot to work today? Find out your rights when working from home in a heatwave

The Met Office said the temperature hit 32.6C at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday making it the hottest day of the year. The heatwave is forecast to persist until Thursday evening when it will break in some regions of the UK where severe weather warnings have been issued. But what temperature is too hot to work in by law?

What rights regarding temperature do you have in the office?

Several key workers and others who cannot work from home have started to return to their workplaces.

There are laws regarding temperature pertaining to working environments.

Unfortunately, there is no legally defined maximum temperature for offices or other places of work.

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The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 requires an employer to maintain a reasonable temperature where you work, but it does not specify a maximum temperature.

There is a minimum temperature of 16C or 13C if the work involves considerable physical activity.

However, an employer is also expected to prevent a workplace from becoming uncomfortably hot.

There should also be enough thermometers around the workplace to enable people to check the temperature.

One’s response to heat can also depend on the weight and age of an individual.

Air temperature is just a rough guide because humidity, wind speed, radiant heat sources and clothing will also have an effect on the temperature and impact on a person.

In 2006, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) released a briefing about the highlighted temperatures which it believes should be maintained in various workplaces as a matter of health and safety.

The TUC stated that it believes a maximum temperature of 30C should be set by employers, with a maximum of 27C put into place for those doing strenuous work.

The TUC has set out a case for a legally enforceable maximum temperature.

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What to do if your workplace is too hot?

If a workplace is too hot, the Government advises employees to speak to their employer about the conditions.

According to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), employers should carry out a risk assessment for the health and safety of their workers in order to determine whether the workplace is a safe environment in which to work.

It is ultimately up to an employer if an environment is considered unfit for work.

How does remote working during COVID-19 impact this guidance?

By law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of all employees, including those who work from home.

Although these rules have become a little unclear since lockdown as so many people have been forced to work remotely.

Employers are advised to check in with their employees to ensure their work can be undertaken safely.

As with some workplace necessities, employers may be willing to provide items to help workers keep cool, such as a fan, but they are not legally obliged to provide these items.

Tips for keeping cool while working

  • Insulate any exposed pipes that can become hot
  • Shade the windows
  • Move workstations away from areas that are exposed to the sun or frequently become hot
  • Provide air conditioning or fans for employees
  • Provide thermometers so that workers can keep an eye on the temperature
  • Rotate workers if certain individuals are forced to cope with uncomfortable temperatures for prolonged periods of time
  • Take regular breaks to cool down
  • Drink plenty of water.

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