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Can employees stop working when it gets too hot?

With temperatures expected to hit or even exceed 35 degrees Celsius over the next few days, can employees ‘down tools’ claiming it is too hot to work?

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Published 15 July 2022

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  • Business
  • Services
  • Employment law for employees
  • Employment law for employers

Whilst legislation sets a minimum temperature where work can stop, it will surprise many to find that there is no upper limit, says Daniel Zona in the Employment team.

“Health and safety legislation sets out a minimum temperature of 16 degrees Celsius where staff can stop work, falling to 13 degrees Celsius for those in ‘vigorous’ roles. Yet there is no upper limits where staff can stop working, partly in recognition that some working environments can be extremely warm – commercial kitchens and certain manufacturing roles, for example.

“But that does not mean employers should carry on as usual where temperatures soar. Employers do have a responsibility for the physical comfort and wellbeing of their staff in the workplace and are required to carry out a risk assessment when temperatures increase.

“That risk assessment should include taking measures to make the working environment comfortable, and pay particular attention to vulnerable individuals, those, for example, who might be pregnant or with disabilities.

“Employers are reminded that a little flexibility in working arrangements can go a long way, something we have learnt from the Covid pandemic. Heatwaves rarely last for extended periods of time and adopting temporary changes to working hours, home working or dress codes might be the simplest answer.”

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Shorter Reads

Can employees stop working when it gets too hot?

With temperatures expected to hit or even exceed 35 degrees Celsius over the next few days, can employees ‘down tools’ claiming it is too hot to work?

Published 15 July 2022

Associated sectors / services

Authors

Whilst legislation sets a minimum temperature where work can stop, it will surprise many to find that there is no upper limit, says Daniel Zona in the Employment team.

“Health and safety legislation sets out a minimum temperature of 16 degrees Celsius where staff can stop work, falling to 13 degrees Celsius for those in ‘vigorous’ roles. Yet there is no upper limits where staff can stop working, partly in recognition that some working environments can be extremely warm – commercial kitchens and certain manufacturing roles, for example.

“But that does not mean employers should carry on as usual where temperatures soar. Employers do have a responsibility for the physical comfort and wellbeing of their staff in the workplace and are required to carry out a risk assessment when temperatures increase.

“That risk assessment should include taking measures to make the working environment comfortable, and pay particular attention to vulnerable individuals, those, for example, who might be pregnant or with disabilities.

“Employers are reminded that a little flexibility in working arrangements can go a long way, something we have learnt from the Covid pandemic. Heatwaves rarely last for extended periods of time and adopting temporary changes to working hours, home working or dress codes might be the simplest answer.”

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