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18th Jul 2022

Calls to set a ‘too hot to work’ law to send Brits home as heatwave expected to hit 41C

Danny Jones

When is it too hot to work?

If there’s any time it’s too hot to work, it’s now

Unions are calling for a ‘too hot to work’ law to be established as Brits bake in an unprecedented UK heatwave.

GMB union said Monday that employees should not have to face working in temperatures any higher than 25C, as forecasters are predicting a record high of 41C (106F) in England on Tuesday.

At present, there is currently no law in the UK or Ireland that specifies a workplace temperature limit but with members of the public going so far as to book hotel rooms just to access air-conditioning, calls for a maximum working temperature are growing louder than ever.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) government agency state that most workplaces should average around 16C or 13C for more physical labour, but with the red level four extreme heat warning being issued for Monday and Tuesday’s temperatures they are reiterating that the “responsibility to make workplaces safe and healthy lies with employers.”

MPs recently tabled a motion to have the maximum workplace temperature set to 30C as the first significant doses of summer sun arrived in mid-June and into July but, as yet, the bid made by a total of 37 representatives is yet to be passed.

Pushing for the working temperature limit to be set as a matter of priority, GMB health and safety officer Lynsey Mann said: “This hot weather is great for being on a sun lounger, but if you’re trying to work through it’s no joke… Bosses need to do everything possible to keep workplaces cool and, more importantly, safe.”

Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady added: “We all love it when the sun comes out, but working in sweltering conditions in a baking shop or stifling office can be unbearable and dangerous.”

The union has also proposed that companies should, at the very least, allow staff to work from home or adjust their hours to avoid rush hour.

In London, people are being urged not to travel in cars or on public transport, specifically, as the sweltering heat of buses, trains and tubes presents a genuine risk of heatstroke to commuters.

It isn’t just the prospect of overheating that is causing concern either, as Shelly Asquith (also of the TUC) says working in hot weather can lead to everything from the expected dehydration and fainting to muscle cramps, rashes and, in the case of outdoor workers, becoming “three times more likely to develop skin cancer.”

TUC are one of several organisations calling for the ‘too hot to work’ law to be put in place, having set up a petition which has already been signed by thousands.

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