Too hot to work?

With the current tropical conditions, Laura Claridge looks at some common weather and work questions.

Is there a maximum operating temperature?

In short, no.  During working hours, the temperature in indoor workplaces must be reasonable.  To comply with health and safety law, temperature must be at a comfortable level and air should be clean and fresh. 

Employers also have an implied duty to provide a suitable working environment, and this will include the temperature.  In a 1980 case, it was found to be a breach of duty to require a workshop employee to work in temperatures of 9 °C in winter.

If an employee raises concerns about temperature, employers should listen to concerns to investigate whether action needs to be taken, and also take into account complaints from any staff who are more likely to struggle in the heat for example due to health issues. 

What about a minimum working temperature?

The same principles apply as for a hot office.  But there is more specific guidance here - Government guidance suggests a minimum temperature of 16°C or 13°C if employees are doing physical work.

Although it’s a long way off at the moment, thinking ahead to winter, do we need an adverse weather policy?

It is a good idea, or at the least if not a formal written policy, to make sure that employees are aware of business expectations in the event of being unable to attend work due to extreme weather.  There is no general right to be paid if an employee cannot get into work, but sometimes there will be an implied contractual right, for example if an employer has always paid in these circumstances in the past.

As a minimum, employees need to understand that they are required to make every attempt to attend and what will happen if they cannot attend.  For example, can they work from home, do they need to make up the time, will it come out of annual leave entitlement and so on.

For advice on any of these issues, please contact our employment team on 01689 887887 or email


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