The hot seat – how you can help your employees manage the heat

We’re experiencing a period of extreme weather, and it’s something that’s becoming less of a phenomenon and more of a common occurrence. With temperatures forecast to reach record levels this week, how can you help your employees to stay comfortable and be productive?

Hot weather can be dangerous – especially for those working outside. But even in offices – particularly older buildings without air conditioning or windows that open sufficiently, people can quickly feel ill and be unable to work properly. Employers have a reputation, perhaps unfairly, of assuming that when people call in sick in hot weather, they are just looking for a day in the garden, but people react to the heat differently and for some, it can really affect their ability to concentrate properly at work.

So what can employers do to help?

  • Regulate office temperature – it’s true that, at the moment, there’s no legal upper limit for temperatures at work. But it’s widely recognised that an office temperature should be no higher than 30oC, and that is really too high for most people. So if you need to buy fans, open windows and pull blinds to keep the sun out, that will help to keep the temperature as workable as possible.
  • Ensure employees are hydrated – if you have a water cooler system, look ahead to the warmer weather and ensure there are additional supplies of water. Remind your employees to stay hydrated during the day, and to carry water with them on their commute.
  • Relax clothing requirements – for smaller businesses where employees are not client-facing, it may be possible to allow employees to wear less formal clothing during hot weather. For those businesses that are meeting clients or need to stay looking professional, you might consider relaxing the jacket and tie rule for men if appropriate.
  • Do something nice – buy ice-creams, allow extended or more regular breaks, be flexible with later arrivals or earlier departures, particularly for those who travel by public transport.
  • Look after outdoor workers – it’s difficult to work in extreme heat. Ensure that any outdoor workers have suncream to protect their skin, access to plenty of water to drink and hats or shade if possible to prevent sunstroke. Give regular breaks, particularly for labourers who are expending a lot of energy.
  • Look out for vulnerable employees – there may be people in your organisation who are more likely to suffer from the effects of heat. These might include those who are pregnant, recovering from illness or medical treatment, or who are older.

If you don’t have a policy on working in hot conditions, it might be worth thinking about putting one together. As the climate continues to change, all the signs are that we will have to get used to working in high temperatures, so as a responsible employer, it makes sense to plan for this. To find out more or for help and advice with any of your HR policies and procedures, contact us today.


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