UK heatwave: Bosses urged to let staff work flexible hours as temperatures soar

'Nobody should be made to suffer in the heat for the sake of keeping up appearances,' says TUC boss Frances O'Grady

Ben Chapman
Tuesday 23 July 2019 16:20
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Related video:  Broadstairs beach in Kent fills up as heatwave sweeps the UK
Related video: Broadstairs beach in Kent fills up as heatwave sweeps the UK

Unions have called on employers to allow staff to work flexible hours or from home during a heatwave this week as temperatures look set to hit 37C.

The Trades Union Congress said organisations should let employees start late or finish early to avoid sweltering conditions in packed commuter services.

It also recommended a relaxation of dress codes so that staff can wear more casual clothes suitable for hot weather.

Public Health England issued an amber heat-health warning this week – one level below a “national emergency” red warning - as Britain prepares for its hottest day ever.

“Bosses should do all they can to keep the temperature down,” said Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary.

“Nobody should be made to suffer in the heat for the sake of keeping up appearances.”

She added that it was “in bosses’ interests" to provide a comfortable working environment.

“Workers who are unable to dress down in lighter clothing, or who work in offices without air-conditioning, fans or drinking water, are going to be tired, and lack inspiration and creativity,” Ms O’Grady claimed.

The TUC is calling for a legal maximum workplace temperature of 30C, or 27C for environments where people do strenuous jobs. Under the proposals, employers would be obliged to take steps to cool workplaces down once the temperature hits 24C.

Currently there’s no law for minimum or maximum working temperatures but employers must ensure temperatures are “reasonable” while separate guidelines recommend 16C as a minimum.

The Met Office predicts temperatures will rise to 37C in parts of the UK on Thursday, higher than the July record of 36.7C.

The all-time UK record of 38.5C, set in Faversham in August 2003, is also “under threat”.

However the soaring temperatures – caused by the jet stream pushing hot air up from southern Europe – will pose a health risk to vulnerable groups, such as older people and infants.

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