As the mercury rises, workers across the country struggle to cope and employers are looking for ways to keep them motivated and engaged. While there are no legal minimum or maximum temperatures, employers are left to decide what is ‘reasonable comfort’ for their employees, under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Some MP’s are looking to change this but, for now, it’s up to each company to keep their workers comfortable.
An employment law consultant at ELAS says: “We all know it’s hard to keep motivated when the weather outside is lovely. The most important thing an employer can do is make the workplace as comfortable and pleasant as possible for staff members. You don’t have to send your employee’s home in hot weather unless there is a health and safety concern. If the heat is really unbearable you should do a risk assessment and if there is a risk you may wish to consider sending them home or finding an alternative. You may find that investing in a water cooler, fans or air conditioning is a more economical solution than losing a day’s productivity.”
It can be tempting for people to take a ‘sickie’ when the weather is nice, so employers should ensure they have effective absence management systems in place. Make sure that employees know your absence policy, as well as the consequences of falsely taking sick leave, and consider allowing flexible working when the temperatures are extreme in order to maintain productivity.
It’s important to ensure that your employees have enough breaks and are drinking enough, particularly if they’re working outside or in kitchens/confined spaces where the temperatures can reach even higher levels. It might be an option to give your employees an extended lunch break during the hottest part of the day.
You might also want to consider being flexible on the workplace dress code when temperatures get really high, however make sure your employees know they are still dressing for the office not the beach. It’s important to maintain a professional appearance but allowing employees to wear open toe shoes, if it’s safe to do so in your workplace environment, and relaxing the requirements for ties, jackets etc can all help them cope when the mercury rises.
Pay particular attention to vulnerable employees – those who are young, old, pregnant, have health issues or take medication – as they can find the heat particularly troublesome. If you suspect that they are suffering from the heat then you should take appropriate measures to ensure their comfort.
As an employer it is important to lead from the front by staying cool – and giving warm appreciation to your staff when it’s called for. A fun way to keep employees engaged during hot weather is ice cream! A cool treat during the day will provide welcome respite and let employees know you value them and appreciate their hard work in extreme temperatures.