How hot does it have to be to legally leave work?


A SECOND heatwave has hit the UK and if you don’t have air conditioning in your office,also you feel too hot you could be left sweltering.

Temperatures are forecast to hit the early 30s in the coming days as Brits buckle in for more sun.

If you do have to head to work when you would rather be off to your nearest beach or pool, we explain what rights you have when it’s too hot in the office.

What rights do I have if it’s too hot in the office?

There’s no minimum or maximum temperature for offices or other places of work enshrined in law currently.

What employers have to do is ensure conditions are “reasonable” – but this is obviously very vague.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a government agency responsible for the “encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare”.

It has previously suggested workplaces should have a minimum temperature of 16C and in cases where work is very physical, it suggests a lower 13C.

This is because you are more likely to build up body heat in an environment where you are engaging in physical work.

The GMB workers’ union last month called for a legal limit on how hot it can be in a workplace after the Met Office issued a red weather warning for extreme heat.

The GMB union said workers should not have to contend with temperatures any higher than 25C

Unfortunately, the HSE has said it can’t give a meaningful maximum temperature.

This is because some kinds of businesses will be hot simply because of the type of work carried out there – such as glassworks or bakeries.

The HSE guidelines say employers should make sure their workers have access to water and monitor their wellbeing in hot weather.

If you’re in the sun and heat for too long, you can begin to suffer from heat stress. Typical symptoms are:

  • an inability to concentrate
  • muscle cramps
  • heat rash
  • severe thirst – a late symptom of heat stress
  • fainting
  • heat exhaustion – fatigue, giddiness, nausea, headache, moist skin
  • heat stroke – hot dry skin, confusion, convulsions and eventual loss of consciousness. This is the most severe disorder and can result in death if not detected at an early stage

The HSE says: “If a significant number of employees are complaining about thermal discomfort, your employer should carry out a risk assessment, and act on the results of that assessment.”

That means if you’re uncomfortable, you should tell your boss or HR and if enough people complain the business needs to investigate.

If you’re vulnerable, such as menopausal or pregnant, you should mention this as well.

You may not get to work from home though, instead the business might provide fans, relax dress codes, turn up air con, or look at other measures to make things more comfortable.

People working from home may also be struggling. Here’s our top tips for beating the heat.

What are the temperature recommendations?

The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers recommends the following temperatures for different working areas:
• Heavy work in factories: 13°C
• Light work in factories: 16°C
• Hospital wards and shops: 18°C
• Offices and dining rooms: 20°C

What are my rights if I need to take public transport?

Each transport company sets its own policies – and there’s no law about temperatures during a heatwave.

This can mean that travellers face extremely high temperatures.

For example, in 2018, Londoners complained of 42C temperatures on the Tube – higher than the legal limit for transporting cattle.

Transport for London has said that all Tubes will be air-conditioned by 2030.

It’s no longer the law to wear face coverings on public transport, but you’re asked to wear one on the tube or in crowded places, be careful not to overheat if it’s causing you discomfort.

Make sure you bring a bottle of water with you and if possible wear cool, loose clothing.

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