Employers have an obligation to provide a 'reasonable' temperature in the workplace under the Workplace (Health, safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. There has been lots of commentary in the media about the current heat wave, what temperature is acceptable in the workplace and its negative impact on employee productivity.
In light of this debate, the environmental audit committee's report 'Heat waves: adapting to climate change' has been welcomed for providing some recommendations to employers about the actions they should take to help employees cope during the heat and maintain productivity. This includes relaxing dress codes, allowing flexible working during the hot weather and changing building regulations to prevent employees overheating.
The committee said extreme temperatures in Europe are now 10 times more likely than in the early 2000s and this could result in significant economic loss. In 2010, around five million staff days were lost due to overheating above 26 degrees Celsius resulting in economic losses of £770 million. Given that extreme temperatures will continue, it is hoped that by taking some of the recommended steps employers can prevent such loss.
The report says: “The government should make businesses aware of the developing threat of heatwaves and the economic consequences. “[It] should consult on introducing maximum workplace temperatures, especially for work that involves significant physical effort.”