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When the heat is on...

AS temperatures soared across the UK last month the heat was on for employers, says Daniel Krigers, partner at law firm Chadwick Lawrence...

AS temperatures sky-rocketed across the UK in July, the Labour Party seized an opportunity to announce plans to require employers to provide more breaks for staff, as well as enforcing interventions were temperatures to exceed 30degC in the workplace.

Solutions would include access to water, provision of air conditioning and flexible dress codes. The Royal Commission on Health & Safety at Work put forward proposals that aim to protect workers from 'extreme or uncomfortable temperatures at work'. The key amendment here is the proposed imposition of a ceiling temperature where adjustments are required by law, which currently is left undefined.

Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive stipulates that the environment ought to be set at a 'reasonable' temperature. This is somewhat subjective dependent on the type of work being carried out and the type of workplace, so if there is any doubt a prudent employer may choose to carry out an optional thermal comfort risk assessment to review the existing conditions.

A somewhat unexpected complication of the heatwave was the significant disruption of public transport services. This essentially caused the same employee issues that may occur on a 'snow day' and this is a good place to look for best practice guidance. In the majority of cases you are not automatically entitled to be paid if you cannot get to work, however an employer may agree for an employee to make up the time at a later date, work from home or from another location.

If the workplace is closed and there are no viable alternatives to work the employee is entitled to pay. To remove ambiguity, it is good practice to set out the specific employer policy in the Company Handbook.

Air conditioning is not a legal obligation but reasonable temperatures are.

More extensive adjustments may be considered for practising Muslims during Ramadan which can be particularly challenging for them. Annual leave, earlier meetings or temporary working arrangements are worth planning in advance to limit any potential issues from this particular situation. This may also be true for vulnerable workers such as older, younger, pregnant or medicated colleagues.

As always, great employers will us the situation for their advantage, offering flexible work schedules, company picnics, supplying drinks, fruit and icecreams, taking meetings outside or relaxing the company dress code.

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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 8, 2019
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