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As the temperatures set to reach record levels in the UK over the next week or so, there’s no doubt that many of us will be enjoying the great outdoors. But, what about those long office hours in stuffy, windowless buildings? Are employees entitled to go home if it is too hot? Do they have a “right” to air conditioning, for example?
Too hot to work?
Temperatures at work are covered by health and safety law (HSE) and, generally, that legislation places a legal obligation on employers to provide conditions that allow for working in a “reasonable temperature”. That may be fine if you work in an office that has air conditioning, but what if your job involves physical labour outdoors, where the temperature and other working conditions are not so easily controlled?
Recommended – but not a legal requirement
According to the HSE’s approved code of practice, the recommended minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius – and 13 degrees Celsius where the job involves rigorous physical effort.
The key word here is “recommended”, meaning, unfortunately for employees hoping to go home early, it is not an absolute legal requirement. But it is one of those areas of law that has a few grey areas – after all, an employer has a responsibility for the welfare of their employees according to their working circumstances.
As temperatures in the UK are set to hit 30 degrees and upwards, eyes turn to a specific campaign by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which plans to make it illegal to keep people at work indoors if the temperature is above 30 degrees Celsius. The campaign will also help those who have to work outside or drive for a living, to make working conditions more comfortable.
Whilst there is no indication that this is law just yet, employers should still ensure that they provide comfortable conditions – and that applies in the extreme cold weather too.
If you would like further information, or you would like to discuss any other aspect of employment law, speak to Down Solicitors to see how we can help.