Too hot to work: what temperature is too hot in the UK - when is it too hot for work at the office and outside

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As temperatures soar this week, you might be wondering if it ever gets ‘too hot’ to work 🌞 💼
  • UK workers face challenges as summer temperatures rise, with concerns about workplace comfort and safety
  • Employers must ensure reasonable working conditions under health and safety regulations
  • Guidelines suggest actions like providing fans, ventilation and flexible working options
  • Employees should communicate any discomfort to employers and take steps to stay cool and hydrated
  • And prompt action is crucial if heat-related health issues arise

As temperatures soar on what feels like the first properly scorching day of summer in the UK, many workers will find themselves sweltering in offices and other workplaces.

Add to that the four-day heat health alert that is now in force in many parts of the country, and the question of when it’s too hot to work becomes increasingly prevalent, because nobody wants to melt at their desk - no matter how dedicated they are to their job.

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Employees across the country may find themselves wondering about their rights, and the responsibilities of their employers in ensuring safe working conditions during heatwaves.

But what are the rules and guidelines employers must follow, how can workers navigate uncomfortable and potentially hazardous temperatures at work, and when does it get so hot that we can all collectively throw in the towel (or mop)? Here is everything you need to know.

When is it too hot to work?

Tourists refresh themselves in the water of a fountain in downtown Rome in 2005 (Photo: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)Tourists refresh themselves in the water of a fountain in downtown Rome in 2005 (Photo: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)
Tourists refresh themselves in the water of a fountain in downtown Rome in 2005 (Photo: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Unfortunately, in the UK, there isn't a specific maximum workplace temperature set by law that automatically triggers sending workers home.

That being said, employers are legally required to maintain reasonable working temperatures under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which stipulate that employers must provide a comfortable working environment.

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that employers should take action if the temperature inside a workplace is uncomfortably high, which could include providing fans, ensuring ventilation, allowing flexible working patterns, or time for breaks to cool down.

The Government’s web page on the matter says that during working hours, indoor workplaces must maintain a “reasonable” temperature, but there are no legal requirements that specify minimum or maximum working temperatures.

While guidelines recommend a minimum of 16ºC (or 13ºC for physical work) as a comfortable working temperature, there is no specific guidance regarding a maximum temperature limit.

Employers are obligated to adhere to health and safety laws at work however, which include maintaining a comfortable temperature and ensuring clean, fresh air.

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If employees find the workplace temperature uncomfortable, the Government says they should “talk to their employer”.

I feel unwell at work - what should I do?

If you start to feel unwell at work due to high temperatures, it's important to take action promptly to avoid any health risks.

Inform your employer, supervisor or manager immediately about how you're feeling - they have a duty to ensure your health and safety at work.

If possible, move to a cooler area within the workplace. Use any available fans, ventilation or air conditioning to lower the temperature around you.

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Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, but avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks, as they can contribute to dehydration. If you feel faint or dizzy, find a place to sit down and rest until you feel better.

Don't push yourself to continue working in uncomfortable conditions, and if your symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical advice promptly; heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke can be serious if not treated promptly.

What strategies have helped you stay comfortable during hot days at work? How does your employer support you during heatwaves? Share your experiences and thoughts on managing workplace temperatures during hot weather in the comments section.

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