Can you stop working from home if it’s too hot? Know your rights

Can you stop working from home if it’s too hot? Know your rights

07/18/2021

BRITS are enjoying the heatwave this weekend, but they won't be looking forward to trying to work in sweltering conditions next week.

The nation will be basking in sizzling conditions of up to 32C in some places today, with hot weather set to continue throughout the week.

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Some workers will be able to escape to an air conditioned office, as employers begin a phased return to work from Monday.

But many people will still be working from home during the heatwave.

So what can you do if it's too hot to work from home?

We've spoken to the experts to find out what your rights are and what your employer should be doing to help:

Can I stop working if it's too hot?

Employees are allowed to down their tools if it's too hot to work, including if they work from home.

Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, temperatures have to be "reasonable" in order for employees to carry out their jobs.

Technically, there's no set temperature to define when it's too hot or too cold to work, but guidelines suggest work spaces should be at least 16C.

Where jobs involve rigorous physical activities, workplace temperatures should be at least 16C.

What can my boss do to help me stay cool?

ACCORDING to the government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), measures employees could take include:

  • add or remove layers of clothing depending on how hot or cold you are
  • use a desk or pedestal fan to increase air movement
  • use window blinds (if available) to cut down on the heating effects of the sun
  • in warm situations, drink plenty of water (avoid caffeinated or carbonated drinks)
  • if possible, work away from direct sunlight or sources of radiant heat
  • take regular breaks to cool down in warm situations and heat up in cold situations
  • raise the issue with your managers or, if you can, with your union or other workplace representatives

Once you've raised your grievance with your employer, steps they might take could include:

  • where possible ensuring windows are open, fans are provided to promote local cooling and radiators can be switched off or air conditioning units are maintained
  • introducing work systems to limit exposure, such as flexible hours or early/ late starts to help avoid the worst effects of working in high temperatures
  • relaxing formal dress codes
  • including assessments of thermal risk as part of workplace risk assessments

 

Bosses should take steps to achieve these temperatures, such as providing air conditioning and fans – but this may be impractical while millions are still working from home during the pandemic.

"Employers have a duty of care to keep their employees safe, which is extended to include those who are still working from home," explainedKate Hindmarch, employment lawyer at Langleys Solicitors.

"Employers cannot forgo this responsibility, while their employees may be working from home, as in fact they can potentially be at a higher danger of being impacted by the heat due to a lack of air conditioning and proper ventilation. "

Gary Wedderburn, Acas Knowledge Adviser added: "Some workers may be more affected by the hot weather, such as older people, pregnant women or those on medication.

"Employers may wish to give them more rest breaks and make sure there's enough ventilation by providing fans or portable air cooling units."

Can my boss make me come back to the office?

If it's too hot to work from home, your boss may ask you to come back to the office so you are able to carry out your job.

This would be in line with Government guidance as the official work from home advice will be dropped from tomorrow.

Legally, your employer has the right to tell you to return to the office after the working from home rule is lifted, depending on what is in your contract.

But Alan Price, CEO of HR firm BrightHR, said employers should still take into account employees individual circumstances when asking them back into the office.

He added: "Knowing the British weather, the heatwave is likely to be over quite quickly, which means it could be shorter than the length of time it takes the employee to make new arrangements for childcare, for example, that are currently in place due to homeworking."

What should I do if it's too hot to work at home?

If you're struggling to carry out your work at home because the temperature is too high you should tell your boss, said Ms Hindmarch.

It's harder for bosses to carry out their duty of care when employees aren't in the office, so communication is key.

They should be able to help you find a way to stay cool, even if you're at home. This may involve carrying out a risk assessment.

"If an employee is feeling ill or worn out due to the heat an employer should encourage them to seek out medical assistance and take a break from work," Ms Hindmarch added.

Employees are encouraged to speak to their union or other workplace representative if their bosses aren't providing support.

Michael Newman, partner at Leigh Day solicitors, previously told The Sun employees may struggle to bring an employment claim due to their work place being too hot.

But he says you would have a claim if you've been unfairly dismissed after refusing to work due to unsafe conditions, or if you've had pay docked as a result.

If you've worked from home this year – even for a day – you may be able to claim a working from home tax rebate worth up to £125.

Your boss could be BANNED from emailing you out of hours.

While four in 10 working from home enthusiasts are wanting to work abroad to do their job.

 

 

 

 

 

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