Managing staff in hot weather

For the first time, a red weather warning was issued due to the extreme heat faced in the UK. Whilst that may be behind us for now, forecasters are saying this type of extreme weather is likely to become more common.

Employers therefore are urged to consider what they can do to keep their staff healthy and performing at their best. Below we identify some of the issues faced by employers during hot weather, and how to tackle them.  

1. Keep everyone cool!

Whilst the law does not say how hot your workplace should be, temperatures should be ‘reasonable’.

Keep staff cool by allowing them to switch on fans and air conditioning and changing the dress code on hotter days (where possible). By setting clear rules on what is deemed acceptable, a relaxed dress code can help employees more comfortable at work.

2. Remember vulnerable workers

Some members of staff may be more affected by hot weather, such as those with a disability or who are pregnant.

You can help by allowing them to take more breaks, move to cooler areas or even work from home temporarily, if their job allows them to and they have a suitable space to work. 

3. Prepare for transport disruption

On 19 July 2022, Network Rail took the highly unusual step of issuing a ‘do not travel order’ and cancelled most services within the red warning zone in England.

Whilst this may not be in your area, employees commuting using public transport may still have issues due to reduced or slower services, for example as trains go slower to prevent tracks from buckling.

Employees should be encouraged to plan ahead and make allowances for delays, as even those coming to work by car may see increased traffic or heat-related road issues.

4. Be ready for holiday requests

Everyone can’t be off at once and leave requests are likely to overlap, especially during the school summer holidays.

It is a good idea to have a first-come, first-served system in place. That way, you can help to avoid one employee being prioritised over another.

5. Look out for unauthorised time off

Employees who are refused a holiday request may take the time off anyway. Alternatively, you may suspect a member of staff is ‘pulling a sickie’.

It is important not to jump to conclusions and conduct a full investigation into the absence. From here, it may become a disciplinary issue.

6. Check on your homeworkers

You aren’t expected to install air conditioning in your employees’ homes, but they have the same rights as those working in the office. Discuss with more vulnerable staff about taking more breaks, even when working remotely.

As their houses are likely to be hotter than an air-conditioned workplace, offering homeworkers a space to work on site may well be a welcomed opportunity.   

7. Factor in time off for dependants 

Some childcare settings may close due to high temperatures creating an unsafe environment for children. As such, employees may need to take emergency time off for dependants to make alternative childcare arrangements. Consider what you can do to hep employees manage this, such as adjusting start / finish times or allowing short notice annual leave.

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