Let us start with the facts and some answers to commonly asked questions:

While there are legal restrictions on making people go to work in certain extreme weather conditions, there is no maximum temperature set out by the law to dictate when it is too hot to work. 

This is because every workplace is different. No meaningful upper limit can be imposed because in many indoor workplaces, high temperatures are not seasonal but created by work activity, for example, in bakeries or foundries.

However, while there is no legal maximum or minimum working temperature, all workers are entitled to an environment where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled. Heat is classified as a ‘hazard’ and comes with legal obligations as any other would.

The government states that, during working hours, the temperature of all indoor working spaces must be “reasonable.”. Employers must also stick to health and safety at work, including keeping the temperature at a comfortable level expected for the role and providing clean and fresh air.

Common questions your staff may ask during heatwaves:

Can a worker leave their workplace if it becomes too hot?

Not unless they feel unwell, and then they need to take sick leave. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 place a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” working temperature in the office. As the employer, you do have a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in particular circumstances.

Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?

In addition, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees. The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that needs an assessment.

Do you have to legally provide air conditioning in the office?

No, you do not. Where working temperatures are uncomfortable, employers should consider:

  • Using fans (or air conditioning, if available).
  • Providing cool water in the workplace and encouraging workers to drink it to prevent dehydration. 
  • Modifying the dress code requirements, if appropriate,.

Is it acceptable for workers to wear shorts and flip-flops in the office during warm weather? What can you do if this happens and a worker defies their employer?

  • If appropriate and in line with your PPE requirements, you can make temporary changes to your dress code policy to allow for the warmer weather. However, you can still insist on certain standards of appearance, particularly for customer-facing roles, and for shoes and clothing to be sensible for health and safety reasons. 

Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?

  • While there are no legal requirements for employers to make additional allowances for those listed above, it is advisable that you be considerate of your employees during times of extreme heat. Some small but helpful changes can go a long way towards building the goodwill of your workforce, and in turn, they are likely to help the business; after all, if people are too hot, they are unlikely to be at their most productive!