Blog18 July 2013

Maximum workplace temperature: should employees be allowed to down tools if temperatures exceed 30C?

Whilst a minimum workplace temperature requirement exists, a maximum does not. This issue has been brought to the public’s attention via a group of MPs calling for workers to have the right to walk out, should temperatures exceed 30C.

Excessive heat is of course dangerous and every effort should be made to control the indoor climate during a heatwave but we have reservations that this motion has not been adequately considered.

Businesses, neither large or small, can afford for staff to down tools and if employees understood the impact this proposal could have on their employer and their own job security and salary, they may be less supportive.

Interestingly, employees in more sedentary occupations such as office workers, seem to be the most vocal about this issue but employees in industrial settings, kitchens, hospitals and even schools, have more extreme temperatures to endure in their workplaces.

Employers do indeed have a duty of care to provide ‘reasonable’ temperatures in the workplace but legalising workers’ ability to leave, is surely not the answer. As we experience more extremes and unpredictability in our weather, it is up to employers to provide suitable installed or portable air conditioners allowing staff to remain comfortable and productive.

Perhaps the MPs’ objective is to coerce employers to provide climate control solutions in order to prevent mass walkouts, in which case it may have some merit. As an initial step, we believe that a more appropriate set of industry-specific guidelines should be made available, allowing the employer the opportunity to put measures in place: mass walkouts are surely not reasonable, practical or sustainable in the long term.

Tell us what you think by voting in our poll below:

Should workers be sent home by law when inside temperatures hit 30C?

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Should workers be sent home by law when inside temperatures hit 30C?