Blacks Bulletin - 13/5/24

Blacks Bulletin - 13/5/24

The sun will come out tomorrow…

It seems as if the UK may finally be in line for some sunshine this weekend after what feels like an endless and wet winter. However, whenever we are blessed with hot weather, businesses up and down the country are inevitably affected.

Many employees are unaware that there is no statutory minimum or maximum temperature for workplaces in the UK. Instead, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, place a legal obligation on employers to provide employees with a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace, without the need for special clothing.

The Code of Practice issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that the temperature in the working environment should be at least:

- 16 degrees Celsius; or
- 13 degrees Celsius, if the job entails ‘rigorous physical effort’.

This guidance does not differentiate between office and manufacturing environments (which will be vastly different as regards the amount of heat an employee is likely to be subjected to depending on the nature of their work).

To comply with the Regulations an employer should monitor the temperature in the workplace and (having taken into account the nature of the work being undertaken) take the necessary steps to achieve a comfortable working environment for employees.

The guidance does not apply to workplaces (such as a cold storage room) where, by the nature of the work being done, it would be impossible to maintain the suggested minimum temperatures. Again, the onus is placed on the employer to take reasonable steps to ensure that the working environment is as close to the temperature minimum as possible.

There is no guidance as to maximum workplace temperatures. However, following the theme applicable to minimum temperatures, the guidance states that employer must take all reasonable steps to achieve a ‘reasonably comfortable temperature’, and in extremely hot weather ‘fans and increased ventilation’ may be used.

Employers should conduct a thermal risk assessment to determine how temperature fluctuations might affect their staff during hot weather and then take appropriate measures.