Irish heatwave: When is it too hot to work?
With temperatures set to soar this Alan Hickey, Associate Director of law and HR advisory firm Peninsula, has issued advice to employers.
Ireland is set for a scorcher later this week, with the possibility of record-breaking temperatures, according to Met Eireann.
So when is it too hot to work and is there any regulations that protect workers during hot weather?
1. There is no maximum workplace temperature
Many employees believe there is a maximum workplace temperature set by the law which, once reached in the summer, means they’re entitled to be sent home from work.
Health and Safety Regulations simply require workplace temperatures to be “reasonable”. This applies all year round but can cause an issue when temperatures outside increase and result in warmer workplaces.
2. How to work out a reasonable temperature
Whether the temperature is reasonable will depend on the type of work and the nature of the workplace e.g. is the work manual labour taking place outside?
Undertaking a risk assessment will help assess these factors to determine a reasonable workplace temperature, and expert guidance can also be used to advise on this. Speaking to staff to gain a majority view of a comfortable working temperature may also be useful.
3. Don’t just ignore staff grumbles
There will always be some members of staff who remain too hot or too cold. Rather than ignoring their grumbles, steps can be taken to address these before they result in formal grievances. Easy, but effective, steps can include using portable desk fans or moving employees away from air conditioning units.
Employers may also be under a legal obligation to make reasonable accommodations or adjustments to work practices if a disabled employee has a medical condition which makes them feel the heat more, or the cold when air conditioning is turned up to reduce the effects of warmer temperatures.
4. Relaxing the dress code can have a positive effect
Most companies have a dress code in place to help portray a certain image or brand to their customers. Whilst business dress is a popular option, wearing suits or formal clothing can be extremely uncomfortable over the summer months, especially in warmer workplaces or during the daily commute.
Having a summer dress code, or informing staff that the normal dress code is relaxed, will help staff feel more comfortable in the office. It will still be important to have some rules in place, for example, a summer dress code can require business dress but state males do not have to wear ties.
5. Recognise the heat
It’s easy for employees to feel less engaged when it’s nice weather outside and they have to be at work, which can lead to employees pulling a sickie to embrace hot weather while it lasts.
Taking simple steps to show employers value and appreciate their staff during hot weather will help perk employees up and reduce absenteeism. These steps can include providing ice lollies, cold drinks or summer snacks to members of staff. Additionally, early finish incentives providing certain targets are met will help raise productivity as staff wish to make the most of their longer evenings.