Is it too hot to work? Your rights as Britain endures heatwave

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Parts of Britain will be hotter than the Bahamas this week as temperatures are expected to hit record highs.

According to the Met Office, temperatures across the UK will reach as high as of 104F (40C), making it one of the hottest weeks ever recorded.

Workers facing sweltering offices and outdoor workplaces are likely asking themselves whether it is too hot to work. 

Telegraph Money outlines your rights in the heat.

Can I tell my boss it is too hot to work?

The law does not specify a temperature when it becomes too hot to work. The Health & Safety Executive guidance does specify a minimum temperature to work – 60.8F (16C) or if the work concerned involves physical exertion it can be 55.4F (13C) – however there is no mention in the guidance of when it is too hot to work.

Gary Rycroft, solicitor at Joseph A Jones & Co, said employers must instead consider their “duty of care” and what is “reasonable” when calling employees into the office, taking heed of guidance and regulations issued by the Health & Safety Executive. 

“To be clear, such guidance and regulations are not what we call ‘black letter law’, by which I mean legal rules well known and beyond doubt, but rather a sensible means of navigation to avoid future legal problems,” Mr Rycroft said.

This is because some places of work, such as factories, are incredibly hot by the nature of the work undertaken there, Mr Rycroft said.

What are your rights in the workplace?

Employers must undertake rigorous risk assessments of their workplaces in order to determine whether they have behaved reasonably and discharged a duty of care to an employee. 

A risk of high temperatures causing potential harm to an employee would naturally be included on a risk assessment.

Employers must also take into consideration an employee’s particular circumstances, such as underlying health issues, provided these have been raised in advance.

Government guidance states employers should, at a minimum, keep the temperature of the workplace at a comfortable level and provide clean, fresh air.

“There is no point on the thermometer when the mercury rises to the point when you have a legal right to go home,” Mr Rycroft said. “But you should have a reasonable expectation of measures being put in place to keep you as comfortable as possible whilst you work, be that being given cold drinks, a fan or an ice cream.”

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