Feeling the heat at work

Feeling the heat at work

The UK is not renowned for its hot weather.

But a mini heat wave has come along and made us all hot under the collar. What’s the law on heat in the workplace?

It is best for employers to be prepared and know what to do if and when the temperature ramps up.

The law

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure that there is a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace. This will depend on the nature of the work being carried out and the conditions of the workplace.

The law does not set minimum or maximum working temperatures, but it is recommended that it is a minimum of 16 degrees Celsius or 13 degrees Celsius if the majority of the work involves rigorous physical effort.

Employers are required to undertake an assessment of the risks that affect the health and safety of their employees and temperature is one of risks that need to be considered.


When it is particularly warm weather, managers should encourage people to keep hydrated by regularly drinking water.


Just opening a window can make a world of difference. If you have air conditioning, it should be used when it is hot to keep employees cool. If not, try using fans to keep temperatures down to a comfortable level.

You should also close blinds to shade employees from the sunlight and consider moving those who are exposed to the sun all day to other available work stations.

Dress code

As soon as the sun comes out, you may notice employees coming into work with flip flops, shorts, strappy tops or without a tie.

You may decide to make certain allowances to the dress code over the summer months to cope with those hot days. However, this may not always be possible, for example, due to health and safety reasons protective clothing may be required. Or perhaps you need your staff to have a professional image, so smart clothing is required at all times.

If an employee turns up to work wearing something that is not in line with your dress code, you can pull them aside discretely and remind them of the policy and what is considered to be an acceptable dress. For first minor breaches it would be inappropriate to formally discipline them, but if employees continue wearing inappropriate clothes then you can take formal disciplinary action.

It is important that the dress code is not discriminatory and the rules are reasonable and fair. Employers can set different requirements for men and women, but they cannot treat one gender less favourably otherwise they may face claims of unlawful discrimination.

Sun cream

If employees are working outdoors, encourage them to use sun cream to protect them from the sun and try and introduce shady areas for them to work and rest.

One last thing…

You should also read our guidance on how to plan for summer cover and cancelling or refusing annual leave requests. If you want tailored advice for a specific situation in your workplace or for more about heat in the workplace, contact your Employment Law Adviser.

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