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Working Through the Heat Wave

The summer’s here! And wow, what a scorcher we’re having. Out come the sunscreen, shades and ice creams; on go the shorts, miniskirts and t-shirts (or indeed not the latter in the case of many men you see strutting around the town!)

But for many who work in an office, warehouse or manufacturing facility it can be an extremely uncomfortable experience sitting in a sweltering collar and tie or a tailored dress suit. Air conditioning or no air conditioning, the journey into the office itself can be just enough to make you want to tip an ice cold bucket of water over your head when you get to your desk!

Regular workplace dress codes are put in place for a reason, but employers should consider whether to implement a “summer” policy (i.e. dress down) to bring some relief to their staff. It is crucial, however that, if you are going to relax your dress code for a period of time, you actually have a policy setting this out. Bikinis, Speedos and flip-flops really don’t class as suitable office attire (unless of course you work at the local Lido), so make it clear as to what you consider to be reasonable clothing. And also be clear as to when the policy comes into effect; some companies may offer dress down for the whole of July and/or August, others perhaps if the temperature is forecast to be over say 25C. As with any company dress code, make sure that the policy is non-discriminatory on the grounds of sex, race or religion.

Other things employers can do to help the workforce feel more comfortable include providing chilled drinking water and portable fans, particularly if there is no air conditioning. Do also remember that transport can be difficult in warmer conditions; not only do crowded buses and trains quickly become unbearably stale greenhouses, but train companies reduce their services when the temperature is exceptionally high. So if you can offer some flexibility (or show some leniency) in working hours during the heat wave, your employees will be eternally (or at least for one day) grateful.

Occasionally a member of staff may try to tell you that they have a legal right not to work in conditions above 30C, but absolutely no right exists, either for manual or non-manual workers. The Health & Safety Executive gives a recommendation of between 16C and 30C, but it really is only a guideline.

So don’t let your employee’s fool you, but do make it easier for them to get on with their job.


For more information on implementing a Summer Dress Down policy, speak to one of Park City’s consultants today.


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