A couple of days ago, the Southern Daily Echo asked me to comment on the question above. I set out some key points and thought no more of it, too busy coping with the heat myself… however the article has had significant impact. Its gone into around 75 news publications over the last two days and had numerous comments.
My conclusion is that everyone must be feeling so hot and bothered that they must be wanting to go home and trying to find a way to do so.
In general, employers have an obligation to keep employees safe in the workplace. When its hot the requirement is no different, however health and safety rules set no maximum temperature for the workplace. It is therefore for an employer to take steps to understand what is reasonable and reduce risk to staff.
However with all cases of risk, it is for the employer to set what is reasonable in the context of the workplace. Unfortunately the problem is that different people react differently to heat. We are all used to the frequent workplace disputes around the temperature. There is always someone who is too hot and someone too cold. In extreme temperatures, employers should consider steps to minimise the effects on staff. These steps will be different depending on whether the workplace is inside or outside and what activities are being undertaken.
The actions that can be taken to minimise the impact of heat can be to relax dress codes, providing fans and, of course, ensuring air conditioning is well maintained. You could change rest breaks and provide shade if working outside. Some employers also take the opportunity to reward staff with ice creams or cold drinks, which can raise morale and keep employees motivated when the weather is so good outside.
In answer to the question, I’m afraid staff can’t go home due to heat unless authorised by their employer to do so, but they certainly should raise any concerns with their managers. Managers should look into any concerns carefully. If staff are feeling ill, then this needs to be treated as any other sickness absence.
Good luck in the heat all and try to stay cool. For further information or advice, please contact me.