With the temperatures hitting the low 30 deg Cs across the South-East, and the mid to high 20 deg in other parts of England and Wales, the TUC is calling on employers to temporarily relax workplace dress codes to help their staff work through the heatwave.
The sudden increase in temperatures means that many workplaces have become unbearably hot with many employees visibly wilting, says the TUC.
Although there is a legal limit below which workplace temperatures should not fall (16 deg C), most people may be surprised to learn there is no upper limit.
A TUC spokesperson told Recruiter: “Extreme heat can be as unpleasant to work in as extreme cold, and so long as the UK has no legal maximum working temperature, many workers will be working in conditions that are not just personally unpleasant, but will also be affecting their productivity.
“Now is the time for employers to relax the dress code rules temporarily and allow their staff to dress down for summer. It would be hard for employers to be outraged by this sensible request from the TUC.
“I’m not suggesting employees walk in for the rest of the summer months with flip-flops, shorts and vests but maybe employers should allow office attire to be a bit more relaxed while we’re going through this heatwave,” she said.
David Clubb, managing director at Tate, specialist in office recruitment, told Recruiter: “With temperatures quickly rising, we all recognise the last thing you want to do is layer on clothing, but equally removing it all doesn’t work! You can still remain professional and wear comfortable clothes.
“For example, in my team, we use common sense and men won’t wear a tie or jackets while ladies wear lightweight tops and skirts when it’s too hot outside.
“What you can wear also comes down to the culture of your organisation. We’ve seen some of our male clients wearing shorts when others have stuck to the full suit. The most important thing is to maintain a balance of professionalism and comfort in the office, and to make the time to actually enjoy the weather outside.”
For many years the TUC has pushed for a change in safety regulations to introduce a new maximum temperature of 30 deg C – or 27 deg C for those doing strenuous work – with employers forced to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24 deg C.
In the meantime employers can help their overheating staff by allowing them to leave their more formal office attire at home for the rest of the week, says the TUC. Bosses who let their employees loosen their ties, discard their jackets and remove their tights will undoubtedly get the thumbs up from their grateful employees this week, says the TUC.
The best and most simple way for staff to keep cool inside when it’s scorching outside is for them to be able to come to work in more casual clothing, urges the TUC.
“Some offices and other workplaces don’t have air-conditioning or even cold water available. Particularly affected will those employees who work in kitchens, warehouse workers and even some office workers who are based in older building that don’t even have windows that open,” said the spokesperson.
And employers who provide cool and comfortable work environments will get more out of their staff when it’s sweltering, says the TUC. Workers who are unable to come to work in smart summer clothing and who work where there is no air-conditioning, fans or cold drinking water will feel lethargic, and lack inspiration and creativity.
While it may not be possible for staff who regularly attend meetings with external clients, who deal with the public or who wear company uniforms to turn up to work in vest and shorts, so long as employees are smartly turned out, it should be possible to agree on a dress code that fits with the corporate image and helps keep staff cool.
To keep work cool, the TUC would like to see employers:
- Allow staff to adopt less formal attire – with jackets and ties out, and short sleeves, vest tops and shorts in
- Distribute fans to staff and provide portable air cooling cabinets
- Install air conditioning and maintain it regularly, so that it doesn’t break down during a heatwave
- Allow flexible working so that staff can have the option of coming in earlier and staying later to avoid the sweltering conditions of the rush hour commute
- Move desks away from windows, draw blinds or install reflective film
- Allow staff to take frequent breaks and provide a ready supply of cool drinks