28 Jun 2018
Firstly, it is important to note that there is no maximum workplace temperature.It is a common myth that there is a maximum workplace temperature that entitles employees to be sent home from work if it gets too hot. There is a legal requirement for employers to provide a base temperature when it is cold, but the inverse is not true.
Health and Safety Regulations simply require workplace temperatures to be “reasonable”. This regulation is applicable all year round. Just because there isn’t a legal requirement however, does not mean that the temperature doesn’t cause issues, or that you should disregard any complaints received by staff.
Working Out a Reasonable Temperature
Dependant on the nature of the work being done, and the type of workplace, a ‘reasonable’ temperature fluctuates. Does the work involve manual labour? Are your employees working indoors or outdoors? Will your employees be operating machinery? These are all factors you should consider when performing a risk assessment. Look at the environment your employees work in and potential contributing factors to the overall temperature of the office. Are there windows which can be opened? Are there any machines that generate a lot of heat? Expert guidance can also be used to advise on this. Speaking to staff to gain a majority view of a comfortable working temperature may also be useful.
Listening to Your Staff
The ‘ideal’ temperature is different for everyone; you cannot ensure everyone has their idea of a perfect temperature, but you can listen to the overall consensus of your workforce. If lots of members of staff are complaining that it is too hot, this is likely the case. Instead of ignoring their grumbles, take steps to address these before they result in formal grievances. Easy but effective steps can include using portable desk fans or moving employees away from air conditioning units. Employers may also have a legal obligation to make workplace adjustments if a disabled employee has a medical condition that is directly affected by the heat (or the cold when air conditioning is turned up to reduce the effects of warmer temperatures). Speak to this employee to better understand their needs.
Relaxing Dress Codes
Higher temperatures can have a detrimental effect on your employee’s engagement and productivity. Relaxing the dress code slightly (something as simple as stating ties are not a requirement when it is hot) will help make your employees more comfortable and less likely to take time off work. Taking time to provide your employees with perks can also really help boost morale and keep people engaged. Some steps you could take are:
- Providing cold food and drinks
- Have an early finish incentive to boost productivity.
Employees have no legal grounds to take a day off due to workplace temperature unless they have a legitimate medical condition that is directly impacted by the heat (or the cold). As an employer you have a legal obligation to provide a reasonable temperature and look after the general wellbeing of your employees. So, while there is no legal obligation to provide your employees with a particular temperature, the benefits of doing so are significant, and the pitfalls of ignoring your employees is great. Just because employees cannot legally take a day off because of the heat doesn’t mean they won’t try. Avoid this scenario by being fair, listening to your employees, and making adjustments when necessary.
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