Here comes summer….

We are approaching August which is traditionally seen as the hottest time of the summer (although we’ll believe it when we see it!) we’ve put together some issues which you may come across from a legal employment perspective:

Is there a maximum office temperature?

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that the temperature in the workplace needs to be
“reasonable” but there is no maximum temperature.

The Health and Safety Executive previously defined an acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK as lying “roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F), with acceptable temperatures for more strenuous work activities concentrated towards the bottom end of the range, and for more sedentary activities towards the higher end”.

Of course, the “reasonableness” will also depend on the type of work being done and the facilities in the workplace. Common sense should prevail in terms of the productivity of an employee who may be sweltering in the heat. Providing fans and cool drinks, with plenty of breaks in shade or cool rooms, should be considered.

Going AWOL?

So what do you do if an employee fails to turn up to work having put in a holiday request which you declined? As with most employee issues, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. You should always carry out an investigation to establish whether or not the absence was for genuine reasons. You may have your suspicions but always take a step back and look at the evidence.

If however, there is no credible explanation, it may become a disciplinary issue and your disciplinary process will need to be followed.

Stripping off in the heat?

It may be reasonable you to adopt a more relaxed dress code during the summer months. The extent to which you wish to relax the code will depend on a number of factors and there is no requirement on you to comply with any requests:

  • Customer-facing roles
    Standards of presentation may need to be maintained. Turning up at a customer wearing shorts may not go down well with the requirement to maintain a professional image.
  • Health and safety reasons
    It may be necessary for employees to continue to wear protective clothing irrespective of summer heat. Equally, it may be a risk to wear a short skirt or shorts in an environment where this clothing could be caught in machinery.
  • Discrimination
    You must ensure that you do not discriminate between or alienate groups of employees

But I wanted the Bank Holiday weekend off!

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, you are not obliged to agree to a worker’s request to take holiday at a particular time, unless the employment contract provides otherwise. You are obliged to ensure they are able to take their statutory 5.6 weeks holiday, but you can state the dates for this if you require.

There are a number of times of year when employees may compete to get their holiday request in; school holidays, days around bank holidays, religious holidays etc.

The requests need to be dealt with in a way that is consistent and fair, for example on a first-come, first-served basis, or on a rota basis.

Some of our clients have their own holiday policy where they set out notice provisions relating to holiday, shut down periods etc

The plane was delayed… I couldn’t come in

What do you do if your employee returns late from their holiday? As in the example above, don’t jump to conclusions. Sit down with them and ask them the reasons for their late return.

You might ask them for evidence, for example, a medical “fit note” if they tell you they were ill.

However, if you are not satisfied with their responses, a full investigation may need to be undertaken and your disciplinary policy invoked.

Summer work experience

The school summer holidays are typically when school-age children are given the opportunity to carry out work experience.

There is no requirement to pay a child of compulsory school age while on work experience.

However, all other rules and restrictions on employing young people will apply, and relevant approvals from the local authority or school governing body will need to be obtained. Do note that this includes restrictions on night working, the number of hours they are legally allowed to work, amongst other things.

As with all our blogs, if you’d like further information please get in touch:

Please email or call 0118 960 7076.

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