Keeping Employees Cool in a Heatwave

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The UK is currently going through a heatwave. The Met Office has issued its first ever red weather warning for extreme heat. And as temperatures continue to rise, employers and employees are asking “how can we keep cool whilst maintaining productivity”?

Keeping workers cool may seem like a luxury, but excessive heat can slow productivity and may result in heat exhaustion or stroke, neither of which you want on your conscience as an employer, let alone as a cause for a tribunal.

Employees Rights in a Heatwave

Unfortunately for employees, the notion that you can be sent home from work when it reaches a certain temperature is a total myth in the UK. 

There is no law for maximum (or minimum) temperature in the workplace. However, under the Workplace Regulations of 1992, employers have a duty to ensure that during working hours the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings must be reasonable.

Employers have a responsibility to

  • keep the temperature at a comfortable level, sometimes known as thermal comfort, and;
  • provide clean and fresh air

While there is no legal enforcement for employers to send staff members home if they get too hot, the Government does advise that employees should talk to their employer or HR department if the workplace temperature isn’t comfortable.

So as an employer, what can you do to make your staff comfortable in the heat?

Obviously, the steps you can proactively take to keep your employees cool will depend on the working environment. For example air con in an office is a great way to keep the heat at bay where as its not practical on say a construction site.

But there are some some remedies that can be implemented across the board to help employees feel cool in the summer:-

  • Designate a heat monitor to recognise signs of heat stroke/exhaustion in your workers
  • Keep air-con on during hot weather in indoor work spaces
  • Encourage staff to dress appropriately (whilst still adhering to H&S)
  • Provide staff with personal fans
  • Provide access to cold water.
  • Encourage regular breaks.
  • Provide cool flannels/towels
  • Keep windows shut and curtains/blinds closed during the hottest part of the day.
  • Provide a shaded outdoor area for breaks if possible
  • Buy ice creams/ice lollies or other cooling snacks/drinks.

And whilst it is not enforced by law, do consider the possibility of allowing your employees to go home if the heat does become extremely uncomfortable and the remedies above don’t seem to be working. Taking into consideration, especially, any employees with pre-existing conditions, which may be exacerbated by the extreme heat.

We hope these tips prove helpful for keeping employees cool during this heatwave.