With many workplaces sweltering as the temperature nudges into the 30s Celsius, can it ever be so hot at work that you are allowed to go home?

With the Met Office issuing its first ever heat health warning yesterday, we've looked at the conditions for employees and what employers could do to make things more comfortable for staff.

What does the law say?

The law does not set any maximum temperature in the workplace, but says temperatures in indoor workplaces must be “reasonable”.

If you work in an office, TUC guidance states that the maximum temperature you should work in is 30C and if you’re a manual worker it’s 27C.

But unfortunately there is no Government law for maximum or minimum working temperature in an office.


'I like to think it was aliens': Giant crop circle appears in farmer's field

An employer which believes happy staff are productive might want to go further than the law requires.

Steps can be taken to minimise the impact of heat including relaxing dress codes, providing fans and ensuring air conditioning works.

Workplaces could also change rest breaks and provide shade if working outside.

Ice creams and cold drinks are also a nice treat if appropriate.

So is there a maximum temperature we have to work at?

The short answer is no.

The law does not state a minimum or maximum temperature, but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16°C or 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort, says the Health and Safety Executive.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

'During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.'

Common sense should prevail. Working practices have to fit with the needs of the business but there is also flexibility in working hours by starting and finishing earlier.

Have outside workers got sun protection? Hats, sunglasses, sun cream?

Can we go home if it's too hot?

Unless your manager authorises you to go home, you can't. However, you can raise concerns especially if you're feeling unwell.

Employers have an obligation to ensure working conditions are reasonable.

Companies should consider vulnerable people such as older workers, pregnant women or those with disabilities, and should make sure first aiders were aware of those who might be vulnerable.

I'm an employer, what should I be doing?

In a nutshell, making sure things are as comfortable as possible for your team.

Advice from the Health and Safety Executive suggests employers who have staff working outside could:

  • Reschedule work to cooler times of the day
  • Provide more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading to rest areas
  • Provide free access to cool drinking water Introduce shading in areas where individuals are working
  • Encourage the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss
  • Educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress

Employers of teams working inside should be aware:

  • Workplaces need to be adequately ventilated so that they remove and dilute warm and humid air
  • Frequent rest breaks should be permitted
  • Free access to cool drinking water should be available and the containers should be refilled at least daily
  • Educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress

What can I do as an employee working during a heatwave?

  • You can manage your exposure to the sun by wearing high factor sunscreen, drinking lots of water and taking regular breaks in shaded areas
  • Take regular breaks and drink lots of water
  • If the heat is unbearable and enough of your colleagues complain, your boss is legally obliged to carry out a risk assessment