Heatwave Advice for Businesses
The recent heatwave may have been lovely for those who were off work or on holiday, but when the thermometer rises it’s tough for anyone to work in hot conditions, especially those working in manufacturing, factories and offices.
However the hot weather has given business owners and employers something to consider and it could see a shift in how working conditions are developed if extreme temperatures are set to continue year on year.
Our European neighbours appear to cope with the heat better, but it seems the UK doesn’t seem to be prepared, how much of that is down to what we are used to, or the conditions in our working environments?
It is a known fact that an employee's productivity can drop by up to a third in extreme heat, whether that’s working a bit slower, the “sick” days taken, or starting later and finishing earlier.
What challenges do employers face in a heatwave?
- Absenteeism and sickies
- Holidays and last-minute leave
- Workplace temperatures and Working Conditions
- Dress Codes
“Tackling issues upfront, planning and ahead when the thermometer rises and the workplace becomes too hot to work is what I advise my employer clients,” said Pearson Head of Employment Law, Susan Mayall.
“It’s a case of reminding employees about their employment contract, the rules in their particular workplace and why.
Employers have a duty of care towards their staff and a duty under Health & Safety regulations. Some workplaces are by their nature hot, for example, welding and manufacturing factories or if it’s because of the style of the building then there is not a lot an employer can do.
Although there are no employee rights or upper limits on working in hot weather regulations such as the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations of 1992 say that temperature conditions must be ‘reasonable’,” she added.
What can businesses and employers do to mitigate issues during a heatwave?
A ‘good’ employer will make practical adaptations to make the workplace better by:
- renting air conditioning units
- buying more fans
- offering more breaks
- early starts
- allow travel at different times avoiding rush hour and busy public transport
- moving staff around to create a more space
- even buying ice creams and lollies all help boost morale in sticky hot workplaces
Absenteeism, Sickies and Holidays
Employers should advise staff to book holidays in advance, last-minute requests are only to be granted on a business needs basis, and remind staff that when the weather gets hot not everyone can be off at once. The contract of employment or employee handbook should set out the notice employees must give for holidays.
Remind staff that ‘throwing a sickie’ constitutes unauthorised absence and may result in disciplinary action.
“It’s good practice to monitor and record absence in hot weather, or also when there are big sporting events on such as World Cups or Olympics as absenteeism rises and employers can spot trends,” said Susan Mayall.
“Regular offenders can be reminded of the absenteeism policy , as I always say forewarned is forearmed.”
The dress code obviously depends on the industry and whether or not a more relaxed dress code is appropriate. There may be health and safety or hygiene reasons for having a certain dress code in place but employers need to make sure whatever allowances can be made are applied equally across all staff regardless of departments.
“Whilst we all enjoy a spike in temperatures it’s not worth losing your job for a day in the sun and for employers having a sensible approach and taking legal advice when concerned is the way forward,” said Susan.
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Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.
This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.