Heatwave: Maximum workplace temperature of 25C ‘unrealistic’, employment lawyer says

Commuters on London Bridge feel the heat  (Jeremy Selwyn)
Commuters on London Bridge feel the heat (Jeremy Selwyn)

A maximum workplace temperature of 25C in Britain is “unrealistic”, an employment lawyer has said.

Calls for a maximum workplace temperature to be enshrined in legislation resurface as the country swelters under the warmest temperatures ever recorded and Britain’s first ever extreme heat warning is issued.

There is currently no official legal maximum working temperature.

However, Head of Employment at law firm Ashfords Stephen Moore told the Standard it is “unrealistic” to have a fixed maximum temperature - particularly with an increase in home working following the pandemic.

He said: “I think you have to gauge on each workplace situation. If you’re working in a factory for example the temperature will have a greater impact than if you’re working in an office, so depending on which sector or which type of manual labour...

“It’s unrealistic to simply have a fixed temperature.”

He said more home working has become acceptable since the Covid pandemic and therefore a fixed temperature will be more difficult for employers to manage.

Mr Moore said workers have the right to raise concerns with their employer and this can possible lead to a claim.

He added: “There’s a responsibility on employers to make sure there’s a safe environment for employees, heat is one of those elements.

“If there’s a responsibility, there’s a potential liability and under those circumstances a potential claim.”

GMB union said enforcing a maximum temperature, particularly for indoor workplaces and emergency services, will help workers have a leg to stand on if they end up making a personal injury claim related to heat stress.

GMB regional health and safety officer Tom Rigby told the Standard: “It’s hard to win a personal injury claim without legislation in place, that’s part of the reason of putting legislation in place, to put pressure on the employer.”

He said a maximum workplace temperature is about the wider picture of “modernising the workplace and getting it ready for the reality of global warming”.

Mr Rigby claimed employers often do not have a heat stress risk assessment in place for workers.

He said: “I’ll tell you 99 percent of them don’t have one.

”They should have basic measures in place, rotating production so people can have breaks, having a cool area for people to go to, all are part of the existing advice…

“But most employers don’t act on it unless a union demands them.”

Britain’s first ever extreme heat warning is issued (AP)
Britain’s first ever extreme heat warning is issued (AP)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice is that the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings must be reasonable, including home working.

The HSE offers advice on how to carry out a thermal comfort risk assessment which should be carried out by employers, including when staff are working from home.

An employee is allowed to stop working if they believe their working environment is damaging their health.

If they are then penalised for that, they are liable to make a claim at an employment tribunal.