The recent hot weather and hours of sunshine are welcomed by most, but for those who have to work during the heatwave, it is not such a welcome presence.

But what are your working rights as an employee during extremely hot weather? Can you legally walk out of the office if the mercury hits a certain temperature?

Working environment temperatures are regulated by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, but while there is guidance, there is no maximum (or minimum) temperature at which employees can legally stop working and leave the office for the day. Employers must adhere to the current Health and Safety at Work law and make sure that they keep the working environment temperature at a comfortable level and provide clean and fresh air.

Employers are responsible for carrying out risk assessments in regard to the health and safety of their employees and, where necessary, taking appropriate action when it’s practical to do so.

Meanwhile, employees can take a number of measures to make the working environment more comfortable for employees, such as:

  • Adopting a more casual dress code during the hot weather.
  • Ensuring that all employees have access to water and perhaps supplying employees with bottled water to make sure they stay hydrated.
  • Install window blinds to cut down on the heating effects of the sun.
  • Allow your employees to take regular breaks away from direct sunlight in a cool, shaded area.
  • Provide fans in the office, and allow employees to use desk fans.
  • Move workstations out of direct sunlight.
  • Providing more frequent short rest breaks for employees working outdoors.

To help look after yourself during the heatwave while at work, you can:

  • Drink cold water regularly – avoid hot drinks or sugary drinks as they make dehydration worse.
  • Wear loose, cotton clothing and always wear a hat and sunglasses when outside.
  • Always carry a bottle of water with you.
  • Splash water on your face and the back of your neck several times a day to keep cool.
  • Avoid being in the direct sunlight and being outdoors between 11 am and 3 pm.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be suffering from heat stress or sunstroke, call NHS Direct on 111. If you would like to learn more about employees' rights in the workplace, you can have a look at our employment law section.

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