Employees could be within their rights to walk out of a workplace during heatwave conditions if they are uncomfortably hot, according to the legal experts at HR and Employment Law specialists Deminos.
As workers swelter during the hottest day in a decade, employment law advisor Ed McFarlane has outlined employer obligations and employee rights when mercury levels soar.
Legislation under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 sets out broad guidelines about working conditions.
Ed McFarlane said: “There is no maximum temperature limit, as indeed there is no minimum temperature. The gist of the guidance is the workplace temperature should not be uncomfortably high and that thermometers should be available in suitable locations so people can check what the temperature is.
“Employers should consider taking steps such as providing fans to increase ventilation, moving people away from hot windows, or shading windows and maybe providing portable air conditioning machines as a means to control temperatures.
“But, it is really about keeping people reasonably comfortable. Even handing out ice creams or choc ices might make people feel comfortable and alleviate the discontent which can come with hot weather.”
While employers are not under any duty to provide water coolers, they must make sure drinking water is available. There are also no hard and fast rules when it comes to the usual dress code at work
Ed added: “You can’t say there must be a fan or an air conditioner, but if a workplace is uncomfortably hot a worker would, in theory, have the right to leave the workplace on the grounds of health and safety, and not have any action taken against them.
“You would expect employers to be able to insist that certain dress code standards are maintained. But, should the clothing result in someone feeling uncomfortably hot, there would be grounds to relax rules on shirt sleeve length, or to loosen ties and collars.
“The law is quite commonsense. If your staff are struggling in the heat, you should take steps to make them more comfortable.”