How hot does it have to be before you can legally leave work?

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A heatwave which could produce the hottest temperatures this year is sweeping across Scotland.

Temperatures are on Monday expected to reach between 25C to 26C in the Borders and east coast of Scotland.

Can you leave the office if it gets too hot. Picture: YP

Can you leave the office if it gets too hot. Picture: YP

It’s simply too nice to be stuck in the office.


READ MORE: Here’s how long the heatwave will last in Scotland

But can we be sent home if temperatures reach a certain point in the office? Or is that just an old-wives’ tale that employees trot out every summer in hope rather than expectation? 
The Government website states that: “ A meaningful figure cannot be given at the upper end of the scale due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries.

“In such environments it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present.

Beaches (like this in Edinburgh's Portabello) could be busy as people embrace the heatwave. Picture: TSPL

Beaches (like this in Edinburgh's Portabello) could be busy as people embrace the heatwave. Picture: TSPL

READ MORE: Good weather brings out thousands to the Royal Highland show

“Factors other than air temperature, ie radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity, become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures.”

Alan Price, who is the law director at Peninsula Employment a leading Health and Safety consultancy, advises employers to take note of the weather, and to make the most of it too.

He has published some guidance for employers titled ‘Five things employers need to know about hot weather and the workplace ‘, and here it is:

1. There is no maximum workplace temperature

Many employees believe there is a maximum workplace temperature set by the law which, once reached in the summer, means they’re entitled to be sent home from work.

Health and Safety Regulations simply require workplace temperatures to be “reasonable”. This applies all year round but can cause an issue when temperatures outside increase and result in warmer workplaces.

2. How to work out a reasonable temperature

Whether temperature is reasonable will depend on the type of work and the nature of the workplace e.g. is the work manual labour taking place outside?

Undertaking a risk assessment will help assess these factors to determine a reasonable workplace temperature, and expert guidance can also be used to advise on this.

Speaking to staff to gain a majority view of a comfortable working temperature may also be useful.

3. Don’t just ignore staff grumbles

There will always be some members of staff who remain too hot or too cold.

Rather than ignoring their grumbles, steps can be taken to address these before they result in formal grievances.

Easy, but effective, steps can include using portable desk fans or moving employees away from air conditioning units.

Employers may also be under a legal obligation to make workplace adjustments where a disabled employee has a medical condition which makes them feel the heat more, or the cold when air conditioning is turned up to reduce the effects of warmer temperatures.

4. Relaxing the dress code can have a positive effect

Most companies have a dress code in place to help portray a certain image or brand to their customers.

Whilst business dress is a popular option, wearing suits or formal clothing can be extremely uncomfortable over the summer months, especially in warmer workplaces or during the daily commute.

Having a summer dress code, or informing staff that the normal dress code is relaxed, will help staff feel more comfortable in the office.

It will still be important to have some rules in place, for example, a summer dress code can require business dress but state males do not have to wear ties.

5. Recognise the heat

It’s easy for employees to feel less engaged when it’s nice weather outside and they have to be at work, which can lead to employees pulling a sickie to embrace hot weather while it lasts.

Taking simple steps to show employers value and appreciate their staff during hot weather will help perk employees up and reduce absenteeism.

These steps can include providing ice lollies, cold drinks or summer snacks to members of staff.

Additionally, early finish incentives providing certain targets are met will help raise productivity as staff wish to make the most of their longer evenings.

This story first featured on our sister site The Yorkshire Post.