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  • Writer's pictureSusan Wakelin

HR Advice: How do Employers manage with Warm Weather?

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

We are often asked for HR advice around temperature regulations and how employers can keep employees comfortable whilst they work, in this article we delve into reasonable working temperatures and offer some tips on how to keep employees cool during the warmer months.

What are the regulations for workplace temperatures in the UK?

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/3004) state that, during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings should be reasonable.

Temperature affecting employee productivity | HR Advice from SWAN HR | HR consultant in KENT

But what does a reasonable temperature mean? Although, during a heatwave, employers should monitor their workplaces to ensure that temperatures do not become unreasonable, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 do not state a maximum workplace temperature.

What does a reasonable workplace temperature mean?

Unfortunately, what is reasonable in relation to workplace temperature is not clearly defined as it is considered to depend on the nature of the workplace and activities undertaken.

The Health and Safety Executive's (HSE's) current guidance is that it is not possible to give a "meaningful" maximum temperature, as other factors such as radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity become more relevant in workplaces with high temperatures, such as glass works or foundries.

Previously, the HSE defined an acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK as lying "roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F), with acceptable temperatures for more strenuous work activities concentrated towards the bottom end of the range, and for more sedentary activities towards the higher end".

What is a heat-health alert (HHA)?

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Met Office recently issued a yellow heat-health alert (HHA) in 6 regions of England, which as in place from Friday, 7 July to Sunday, 9 July 2023, where the Met Office forecast temperatures of 27°C to 30°C.

For temperatures reaching these highs, employers are advised to:

  • Ensure that they look after their workers in the heat

  • Be prepared for increased sickness absence

  • Be prepared for transport disruptions caused by the heat

In any event, employers should follow HSE guidance and implement measures to prevent employees from becoming too hot.

What does HSE guidance say?

HSE guidance explains employers' responsibilities and provides suggestions as to how they can protect workers by managing the temperature of their workplace.

The HSE guidance explains that how employers manage the temperature of their workplace will depend on the normal operating temperature of their workplace and whether employees work inside or outside.

What can employers do about working temperatures?

providing air conditioning to keep employees cool | HR Advice from Kent based HR Consultants SWan HR

According to the HSE, a reasonable working temperature in workrooms is usually at least 16°C, or 13°C for strenuous work and that when workers become too hot, they could:

  • Provide fans, such as desk, pedestal or ceiling-mounted ones

  • Provide air-cooling or air-conditioning and adequate ventilation

  • Ensure windows can be opened to keep air circulating

  • Shade employees from direct sunlight with blinds or by using reflective film on windows

  • Position workstations away from direct sunlight or sources of heat

  • Place insulating materials around hot plant and pipes

  • Provide cold water dispensers (water is better than caffeine or carbonated drinks)

In addition to the above, the HSE suggest employers could also consider:

  • Introducing flexible working patterns, such as job rotation, moving workers to cooler parts of the building where possible

  • Allowing enough breaks to allow workers to get cold drinks or cool down

  • Relaxing formal dress codes, although employers must make sure personal protective equipment is still used, if required

SWan HR Consultancy (London and Kent)

SWan HR is an HR consultancy that specialises in HR support for small to medium sized businesses in the South East.

"Where HR Succeeds, the Business Achieves"

SWan HR was founded by Susan Wakelin, MCIPD, who is a qualified HR professional with over thirty years' experience, from setting up, auditing and improving HR functions to management coaching and supporting organisations through difficult situations, transformation and change.

SWan HR provides a broad range of tailored HR services including an HR audit, HR advice, HR outsourcing, HR coaching and project work for all businesses.

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Contact Susan Wakelin now to take advantage of a free half-hour consultation to talk through your initial HR concerns and how you can manage these going forward.

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