No sweat, employer FAQs on
handling a heatwave

Posted: 13 July 2022


Q: Temperatures are due to be record breaking. At what temperature would an employer need to cease working practices?

A: Although work may become uncomfortable, there’s no maximum temperature.


Q: Do employers need to send staff home if it reaches a certain temperature?

A: Some employees may believe they’re able to leave the workplace if it’s too hot. This isn’t a legal requirement, and they can only do so if they feel unwell - which would be classed as normal sick leave. Of course, employers can choose to send staff home.


Q: What significant changes could an employer make to tackle rising temperatures?

A: When a heatwave strikes, employers should relax dress codes, ensure adequate ventilation and cooling, and ensure there’s access to cold water. They could also consider flexible working to allow staff to avoid rush hour traffic and public transport. They should also factor in more regular breaks.


Q: Do employers have any responsibility when temperatures rise?

A: Employers must maintain a reasonable temperature inside buildings. If a significant number of employees are complaining about the temperature, a risk assessment must be carried out. Although, it would be prudent to carry this out before any complaints are made. The general duty of care towards employees applies during the heatwave.


Q: What should employers consider when completing heat related risk assessments?

A: The HSE suggests that individual ‘heat stress checklist’ should be carried out for each employee. This can consider any employees who may be more vulnerable in the heat (i.e., individuals with certain health conditions and pregnant women).

In the risk assessment things such as type of work, work environment and clothing should be considered, including uniform and PPE.

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