When is it too hot to stop working?

As temperatures soar during this heatwave, at what point does it become too hot to still work?

The Met Office has issued the UK’s first red extreme heat warning for parts of England. With forecasts of extreme heat this week making work unbearable, it is important workers know their rights.

Although the temperature in workplaces must be reasonable. Unfortunately, there is no law for the maximum working temperature. Employers must stick to health and safety at work law which includes providing clean and fresh air and the temperature at a comfortable level. Is it possible for there to be a comfortable temperature in heat like this?

The HSE suggests that a legally binding highest temperature cannot be set because of the uniquely hot conditions present in certain and specific manufacturing roles. Yet, it does state if “there is a significant number of employees complaining about thermal discomfort, your employer should carry out a risk assessment, and act on the results of that assessment”.  

Sion Lewis, a General Manager EMEA at GoTo has implied due to the rising temperatures, the idea of remote work has moved from ease to essential. “Against the backdrop of the raging heatwave and official health warnings, employees should not have to endure scorching commutes, with slower services and expected delays.” Do you agree?

The Trade Union Congress has made many calls in recent years for a maximum temperature to be introduced in the workplace. They called for a law so that employers must attempt to reduce temperatures if they get above 24°C and workers feel uncomfortable. As well as an absolute working limit of 30 or 27 °C for those strenuous jobs.

While GMB union, which represents more than 500,000 workers has asked for ‘workplace adjustments’ including sun cream, hats, protective clothing, flexible dress codes, flexible working, extra breaks, travel arrangements, air-conditioning and water access.

Due to the hot weather, rail and tube services are to be significantly affected because the heat affects the rails meaning trains must run slower causing fewer services to be available. If commuting to work is going to be more difficult than usual, it could be argued that doing a national ‘work from home day’ would be much easier for the people who are able to. However, schools were guided to remain open as it was suggested it is better for the children to be supervised in this type of weather. Also allowing key workers to still go to work as schools are open for their children.

Employees should talk to their employer if the workplace temperature isn’t comfortable.