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You might not necessarily appreciate it throughout the whole of the British summer but there is the occasional week or two of unbearable heat. It might not last for the months, but every now and again a heatwave hits.

And when it does, it more often than not comes on a working day. Everyone has experienced it, a long, draining day in the office suffering from humid temperatures with no air conditioning or fans to be seen.

It may be a rare occurrence but that doesn’t make it less of an issue. In fact, the rarity can make it worse because offices aren’t generally built to cope with such high temperatures in the UK.

So, what are employees’ rights when the soaring temperatures hit?

Lawful working temperatures

The Workplace Regulations 1992 contain the requirements for the working environment. Regulation 7 details the requirements for temperature in indoor workplaces. It explains that ‘during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

Workrooms shouldn’t be below 16C, or 13C when physically demanding work is involved, but there is no legal maximum temperature for the workplace.

There are arguments that a statutory maximum working temperature should be in place as it would create better working conditions throughout. However, because each office and workplace are different, it’s difficult to impose a set law for maximum work temperatures. Temperatures also fluctuate every hour and the effect the temperature has on employees can vary from person to person.

Making changes

It’s unlikely that any workplace temperature limits will be imposed in the UK due to the impracticality of defining the temperature and the number of the days a year where the weather actually causes disturbance to employees.

Although there aren’t any laws surrounding the matter, it is in a business’ interests to provide a comfortable working environment for employees throughout the year. Taking a common-sense approach to make the heat more bearable for employees is beneficial. Dress codes should be more flexible to allow for shorts and dresses and installing air conditioning or giving employees their own desk fans can make a big difference.

It’s important to make adjustments not only to improve employees’ productivity but to also protect the business.

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