UK Heatwave: What are your rights on transport, in offices and at schools during hot weather?

Gareth Davies
Commuters travel on the Central Line - AP

When Britain swelters in soaring temperatures, it is not everyone's idea of bliss. While those lucky enough to be on holiday during the heatwave can enjoy the weather in their gardens - or from air-conditioned comfort - what about those who have to work when the mercury rises?

Rules around temperatures in the indoor workplace are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. 

Here's everything you need to know about your rights, as the mini-heatwave in Britain this week could feel as hot as 111F (44 C).

All-time records for July could be broken on Wednesday or Thursday as the mercury pushes towards 95F (35C) and above.

What does the law say on employees' rights in hot weather?

The regulations place a legal obligation on employers to provide a "reasonable" temperature in the workplace.

However, while there is a minimum working temperature, there is no statutory upper limit.

Are there any minimum workplace temperatures?

The Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16C. 

If the work involves "rigorous physical effort", the temperature should be at least 13C. 

These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements - the employer has a duty to determine what "reasonable comfort will be" in the particular circumstances.

What about when it gets too hot in the workplace?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says a meaningful figure cannot be given at the upper end of the scale due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. 

In these environments, it said it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present. 

Video: Advice on keeping cool in hot weather

Factors other than air temperature - for example humidity and air velocity - become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures, the HSE said.

No maximum working temperature - that doesn't sound fair! Is anything being done to change that?

After a similar heatwave in 2016, two MPs proposed that bosses should be legally forced to provide water, breaks or air conditioning to combat "uncomfortably high" workplace temperatures.

Labour's Ian Mearns (Gateshead) and the then SDLP MP Mark Durkan (Foyle) believed there was an anomaly in the law.

They said help to cool down should be offered to workers if temperatures soar above 30C (86F) or 27C (81F) if they do "strenuous" work.

They hoped a statutory maximum working temperature would secure better working conditions for those in offices, schools, shops, bakeries, call centres and elsewhere - plus protect them from potential health problems.

But is that actually going to happen?

Well, they took their campaign to Parliament and Mr Mearns tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons.

It stated: "That this House notes that workers in the UK lack adequate legal safeguards from working in uncomfortably high temperatures, owing to the lack of a statutory maximum temperature at which employers would have to introduce control measures, such as breaks, access to water or air conditioning."

It also noted: "(This House) calls on the Government to adopt the recommendations of the TUC and joint union Cool It campaign to introduce into law a maximum working temperature of 30C or 27C for those doing strenuous work, beyond which employers would have a statutory duty to introduce effective control measures."

Nothing came of it, and Mr Durkan lost his seat in 2017.

What about my Tube commute? 

According to EU law, cows can be moved around in temperatures of up to 30C.

Sadly, we are not cows, so we will still have to endure the sweltering conditions on our buses, trains and Tubes. 

Last year, temperatures of 40C were recorded on the Central Line during rush hour and when people complained, TfL reassured passengers that air conditioning will be fitted - but not until 2030.

Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?

In addition to the Workplace Regulations, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a "suitable assessment" of the risks to the health and safety of their employees and take action "where necessary and where reasonably practicable".

A Health and Safety Executive spokesman said: "The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should address to meet their legal obligations. 

"Employers should consult with employees or their representatives to establish sensible means to cope with high temperatures."

How are you preparing for the heatwave? Tell us in the comments below