Summer heatwave: Unions call for employers to relax dress code rules during hot weather

Many companies are offering to foot the bill as outdoor workers are encouraged use sun cream

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The Independent Online

As much of the country basks or in struggles in the heat, union bosses called for office workers to be allowed to ditch their suits in favour of shorts and for employees to be sent home in hot conditions.

Parts of the UK are officially experiencing a heatwave, as a stream of hot, humid air that has swept in from the Spanish plains sent temperatures today rising as high as 29.4C in Hampton, London. 

And while employees are within their legal rights not to work in conditions below 16C or 13C for those doing physically demanding work – no such maximum temperature exists for other workers.

The TUC believes it should stand at 30C – or 27C for strenuous work – with the General Secretary Frances O’Grady saying: “Extreme heat can be as unpleasant to work in as extreme cold.”

“Now is the time for employers to relax the dress code rules temporarily and allow their staff to dress down for summer.

"Making sure that everyone has access to fans, portable air conditioning units and cold drinking water should help reduce the heat in workplaces,” she added.

With skin cancer the fastest growing form of the disease in the UK, outdoor workers are being encouraged to add sun cream to their kit, with many companies offering to foot the bill.

Whilst regulation of work in hot conditions is sparse, government and industry bodies may have to re-evaluate their procedures as experts predict that climate change will lead to more extreme heat during summer months.

A firefighter was recently awarded £7,500 compensation from the London Fire Brigade for not having been provided adequate drinking water.

Weather stations across the South-east recorded temperatures pushing 30C yesterday, according to the Met Office, with the rest of the UK averaging in the mid-20s.

Hospitals and care homes have been told to expect an increase in admissions with health and social services staff on standby to contact vulnerable charges. Public health officials raised concerns for Muslims fasting for Ramadan.

However, forecasters expect the hot weather to be brought to a halt by thunderstorms over the weekend. This has prompted the Met Office to issue a severe weather warning for much of the country on Saturday, with the potential for localised flooding.

Dan Williams, a meteorologist, said: “We could see some heavy showers in the South-west tonight moving into Wales and the west of England tomorrow.”

The AA has predicted travel chaos on Britain’s roads this weekend but Malcolm Bell of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said talk of a heatwave had been a much-need shot in the arm for tourism in the South-west.

He said: “There have been health warnings and talk of 30C temperatures keeping people inside, but it has had the opposite effect down here because people have been coming to the beaches for the sea breeze.

“I’m sure this weather is doing well for the economy down here, as you’d expect.”