Can It Ever Be Too Hot to Work in the UK?
There is no legal minimum or maximum working temperature in the UK, but that doesn’t mean it is never too hot to work. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) say that working temperatures should provide ‘reasonable comfort’ to workers, and provide recommendations such as:
The temperature in a workplace should be at least 16 °C, or if the work involves rigorous effort, it should be at least 13 °C.
Other factors such as humidity, air flow and worker clothing and movement also play a part in determining if the temperature in a working environment is reasonably comfortable. As there is no recommended office temperature in UK law, it is up to each workplace to determine their own ideal temperature.
If you do find the heat is making you uncomfortable, this can impact on your working ability. You may find you cannot concentrate, your productivity will drop and you may suffer from heat stress.
What is Heat Stress?
When you are too hot, your body will try to cool off by sweating and radiating more energy. Unfortunately this can lead into heat stress if the temperature continues for an extended period of time without relief from water shortage or natural processes that help regulate temperatures in a human being’s environment.
Symptoms of heat stress can include having a red face, excessive sweating, a heat rash, muscle cramps, dehydration and fainting. If allowed to continue, heat stress can cause heat exhaustion, and this is a severe disorder that can lead to death in extreme cases.
Some working environments are more at risk of being too hot to work in than others. For example, those in well-ventilated offices are less likely than those working in a kitchen to feel the effects of a heatwave. However, we all have a responsibility to stay safe and healthy at work, no matter our working environment.
What Are Employer Responsibilities During Hot Weather?
All employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of employees. Whilst there is no legal requirement to provide air con in offices, employees will work better when they are comfortable. It is therefore in everyone’s interests to make the environment as reasonably comfortable as possible.
Employers should also take extra care to protect any vulnerable people in the office. Hot weather can make people feel tired and less energetic than usual, especially for young and elderly people, pregnant women, and people who may be on medication. Vulnerable people in your office may appreciate extra rest breaks or a desk fan to improve air circulation.