‘Shorts’ cut can keep workers cool, says TUC

The body that represents more than six million working people has urged employers to be willing to relax workplace dress codes to help staff keep their cool during higher summer temperatures.

The TUC issued the call on 17 July, ahead of temperatures predicted to hit temperatures in the low 30s°C in some parts of the country.

Although there is a legal limit below which workplace temperatures should not fall (16°C), there is no upper limit and soaring temperatures could make many workplaces uncomfortably hot, the TUC said.

The TUC has been campaigning for a change in safety regulations to introduce a new maximum temperature of 30°C – or 27°C for those doing strenuous work – with employers required to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperatures hits 24°C.

It said that in the absence of those requirements, the best and simplest way for staff to keep cool when temperatures rise was to be able to come to work in more casual clothing.

The TUC recognised that it might not be possible for staff meeting external clients, dealing with the public or who wear a company uniform to turn up to work in shorts. However, the TUC commented that so long as employees were smartly turned out, it should be possible to agree upon a dress code that fits with the corporate image and helps keep staff cool.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Now is the time for employers to relax the dress code rules temporarily and allow their staff to dress down for summer. Making sure that everyone has access to fans, portable air conditioning units and cold drinking water should help reduce the heat in offices, factories, shops, hospitals, schools and other workplaces across the country”.

The organisation recommends employers agreeing that staff can wear short sleeves, shorts and vests in hot weather. It also urges employers to:

  • allow flexible working so that staff can have the option of coming in earlier and staying later to avoid sweltering rush hour commuting;
  • move desks away from windows, draw blinds or install reflective film; and
  • allow staff to take frequent breaks and provide a ready supply of cool drinks.

At Palmers, our employment law team can provide expert guidance to employers on putting in place employment policies and procedures, including dress code policies that establish clear guidelines on appropriate clothing and appearance at the workplace – including in hot or cold weather – and take into account different cultural and religious considerations, health and safety requirements and disability issues.

Our HR package also offers regularly updated sample policies for matters such as flexible working. For more information about our employment law services or our HR package, please visit our website or contact Lara Murray, Karl Barnes or Charlotte Woolven-Brown