"Managing People with Morecrofts"

Too hot to handle? – Working in the warm weather…

by Thomas Sutherland

Thomas Sutherland Us Britons love to discuss the weather, hot or cold, rain or shine. It’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason – because it’s true. At the moment, it’s due to the relative rarity of the sunshine popping its head out of the clouds and basking us with warm rays and high temperatures. 

As lovely as the warm weather is at Wimbledon or on a nice day out, it’s not always quite as pleasant in the workplace in dress code compliant clothing. Presumably, this is one of the biggest reasons why employers have noticed a massive increase in employee absenteeism already this week.

Whilst it is important to point out that some absences will be genuine, some employees appear to have left their employers in little doubt as to the nature of their absence due to the ‘unusual’ reasons given.

These reasons include:•running out of suncream, so not being able to safely travel to work due to the risk of sunburn;

•having to stay at home to ensure the dog gets enough fluids at home; and

•it not being safe to drive to work due to not being able to see the road signs in the bright sunshine.

Quite a few friends have asked me this week whether there is a maximum temperature to which they have to work. They’ve been disappointed when I’ve informed them that there isn’t and they can’t refuse to go to work and, instead, sip nice, cool drinks at home whilst watching Wimbledon when the thermometer hits 35’C.However, an employer does have obligations under health and safety legislation to ensure that the working environment is safe to work in and this includes the temperature experienced within the workplace. 

It is therefore advisable for employers to take reasonable steps to minimise heat in the workplace. This may be allowing windows to be opened, providing adequate rest breaks for manual jobs and considering providing fans for employees who request them (if cost allows).Employers should also ensure that they make reasonable adjustments for those employees who may be at greater risk in the warm temperatures due to certain medical conditions.So, however ‘unusual’ the reason given by the employee, an employer should always consider whether it is complying with its health and safety obligations before deciding its course of action, particularly where an employee refuses to work due to the temperature in the workplace.

Speaking as someone who was looking forward to 33’C temperatures yesterday lunchtime and, instead, experienced cloudy weather and a slightly muggy climate, let’s hope the sunshine sticks round Liverpool for just that little bit longer!