Too Hot To Work – Temperatures In The Workplace

When temperatures rise, people often think it is “too hot to work”.

Temperatures in UK have been very high in the last few days.  The hottest August Bank Holiday ever was recorded.   So what is the law about temperatures at work?  And what can employers do to keep it comfortable?

What are the legal requirements about temperatures in the workplace?

The simple answer is that, in the UK, there is no law which specifies maximum (or minimum) working temperatures.  There is no law which says when it is too hot (or cold) to work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that “in offices or similar environments, the temperature in workplaces must be reasonable”.  The requirement on employers is that they must keep the temperature at a “comfortable level”, known as thermal comfort.  They must also provide clean and fresh air.  There are six basic factors which affect thermal comfort.

The six basic factors affecting thermal comfort

Each individual person has different levels of comfort and can be affected in different ways from others.  The most commonly used and obvious factor is air temperature.  This is easily measured, but it can be affected by the other factors.

Another environmental factor is thermal radiation.  This is the heat which radiates from a warm object.  This may be present if there are hot pipes, machinery or other heat sources in a workplace.  This has more influence than air temperature on how we lose or gain heat.   Direct sun is also a source of thermal radiation.

The speed of air moving across a person (air velocity) may help them to cool down. For example, if there is a fan or moving air through an open window.  Humidity is another factor. If there is water vapour in warm air, this can result in humidity and people feeling “sticky”.

There are also a couple of personal factors which affect thermal comfort.  A person may feel more or less at a comfortable temperature, depending on their clothing.  Too much clothing or safety clothing – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can be a primary cause of heat stress.

The final factor is the individual’s work rate.  The more physical work we do, the more heat we produce.  Individual physical factors such as size, weight, age, fitness level can all have an impact.  We are all different and react differently to changes in temperature.

What can employers do to keep temperatures in the workplace at a comfortable level?

There are a number of things which employers can consider to make the workplace more comfortable when the temperature rises.   You may already be doing some things and others are simple to implement.  Some things to consider are:

  • provide desk fans
  • allow flexible hours/early starts so people can choose to avoid working at the hottest times of the day
  • where possible, encourage people to open windows
  • if you have air conditioning, make sure it is maintained and working
  • allow relaxed dress codes
  • keep blinds closed to avoid direct sun
  • move workstations away from any hot machinery/pipes, etc
  • insulate hot pipes and machinery, where possible
  • ensure that risk assessments include considerations about temperatures in the workplace
  • provide fresh drinking water (preferably cooled)
  • allow regular breaks for people to cool down
  • allow flexible, remote or home working
  • provide clear guidance on all of the above to employees

As always, I would advise you to consult with and collaborate with your employees.  They may have some more ideas about how to be more comfortable at work during periods of extreme temperatures.

One final thing for employers to think about, is when to  carry out risk assessments.  In particular, if you receive several complaints from employees about the temperature in the workplace and their discomfort, then you must carry out a risk assessment and take appropriate action.   For further advice, see the Health and Safety Executive website.

What about jobs which involve extreme temperatures in the workplace?

There are some types of work which create extreme temperatures in the workplace, regardless of the season.  Some manufacturing processes, for example, can have serious effects on health if the temperature is not managed properly.

In such an environment, it is critical to undertake risk assessments. If your Business involves people working in very high or low temperatures, then you should seek further advice from the Health and Safety Executive or a professional health and safety expert.

 

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

Invisible Disability In the Workplace

According to the charity, Scope, there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK.  Nearly 1 in 5 working adults are disabled (19%).

You may look around your workplace and struggle to see many disabled people.  There might be someone with a wheelchair or maybe someone who uses a stick.  But on the whole there are few visibly disabled people.  And therein lies a huge problem.

What is invisible disability?

Because we cannot see any evidence of a disability, we don’t always realise it is there.  If someone walks and talks and appears to function well, we do not see the pain they might be in.  Or the exhaustion they are feeling.  We don’t know the mental anguish they live with, or the anxiety and fear they might have.

Many people have a condition, illness or impairment which causes difficulty on a daily basis.  If that condition lasts at least 12 months, then this is the legal definition of “disability”. Those people might need an adjustment to help them deal with life more easily.  This could be something in their daily life, such as the use of a parking space to lessen the distance they have to walk.  Alternatively,  they might need a seat on public transport.  In the workplace, they might need an adjustment to enable them to work more effectively.  This could be a change in their duties, or a specific chair.  It might mean altered hours, or regular breaks.  It could be a fan, or heater, or footrest.

The point is that, as employers and as colleagues, we don’t know what we don’t know.  If we cannot see the disability, then it is an invisible disability (also known as a hidden disability).

How can we help?

The best way to help someone who is living with an invisible disability – or any disability –  is to ask them what helps them.   They know their condition and what constraints that puts on their life.  Through experience, they know what helps and what makes things worse.  They know when they need a break, or some different work, or a different seat.

But many people feel unable to talk about their disability.  There may be many reasons for this.  Sometimes they have faced stigma from work, from the general public, even from friends and family.  More often, they face a lack of knowledge and understanding.  We don’t want to appear stupid, so we don’t ask how to help people.  So we make assumptions about what helps – and those assumptions can be wrong.

Employing someone with an invisible disability

Employers have a huge role to play in changing the attitudes towards disability.  There is also a legal obligation on employers to make “reasonable adjustments”  in the workplace to support those with disabilities.  So what is a “reasonable adjustment”?  It is any adjustment at all which might make it easier for someone to do their job.  The best way to decide what is needed is to talk to the disabled person and find out from them.

If a person feels safe in the workplace and trusts their employer, then they are far more likely to explain their difficulties and be open about a disability.  This can open a discussion about any adjustments and support needed.  This has to be an ongoing process.  Things change, both in the workplace and in the individual’s life and medical care.  So the conversation has to be ongoing. The individual has to feel confident in bringing the subject up and airing their difficulties.  Then you can find a mutual and appropriate solution.

It may be (indeed, it is likely) that you already employ someone, or some people, with an invisible disability.  If you don’t already know about it, then that could be a sign that they don’t feel safe.  They may well be struggling on their own.  If this is the case, their performance will be suffering, or they may have attendance or lateness issues.  They may be having a high number of sickness absences.  They may be in conflict with colleagues.

Open the discussion about invisible disability

Some simple things you can do to make your workplace safe for people with an invisible disability include:

  • Give a clear message that it is safe to discuss disability (or other difficulties) at work. Cover it in induction, in regular performance discussions, and at every opportunity.
  • Review all your policies and processes and ensure they take account of people with disabilities and their needs.
  • Train your managers and other staff on the right approach to take and language to use.
  • Encourage your managers to have regular discussions with individuals in their teams to give an opportunity to raise any issues.
  • Put in place any adjustments which are needed to make work more comfortable for people.
  • Make sure your people feel valued (those with invisible disability, those with visible disability, those without).
  • Set up an anonymous suggestion box. Then people can make suggestions about things which might help them, without having to tell you about their disability.

Taking it further

If you are interested in more information about disability in the workplace, or want some support, then you might want to speak to an advisor who specialises in this area.

Roland Chesters is a Disability Development Consultant who, himself, has an invisible disability and is an inspirational speaker and advisor. For more information about the services he offers, see his website, Luminate.uk.com or contact him.

 

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR.  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

Climate Strike Strategies – 20 September 2019

Young people in the UK and globally have been taking action for climate change and now they are calling for adults to join them by walking out of work on 20 September in a global “climate strike”.

Employers would be well advised to prepare for this.  You have a little over a month now to consider what you will do if your employees take part in this action.

What is a climate strike?

This proposed action is called a climate strike as the intention is for people to take a day out of work in protest against climate change.

In employment terms, a strike is lawful where a workplace has a recognised union and the strike is a result of a dispute between the employees and the employer. There are strict (and fairly complex) rules about balloting for strike action.  If these terms are not met, the strike is unlawful.

The climate “strike” is not as a result of a dispute between employer and employees and many people who are intending to take part may not be part of a trade union which is recognised in their workplace.

What action can an employer take?

As with all things, my first advice is to talk to your employees.  Find out if anyone is intending to take part in the action.

If a significant part of your workforce is planning some action, then you need to consider what work will not get done that day and how you can cater for that.  Can you change deadlines, appointments, deliveries, etc?  You can discuss these plans with your employees and get their help and ideas to manage the workload for that day.

In terms of payment for the day off work, there are various options and it may depend on your own concerns (or otherwise) about climate change.     You could insist that anyone who takes part in the climate strike has a day of unpaid leave.  Or you could ask employees who intend to strike to use up a day of their annual leave allocation.  More likely is a combination of these.  This would mean they take a day of their annual leave, but they can choose to have a day of unpaid leave instead and use their annual leave another time.

You could be really generous and just give people an extra day of annual leave.  For those not taking part in the “strike”, you need to be fair and allow them an additional day of leave to take at another time.  You might even want to close the Business for a day and take part in the “strike” yourself!

Unintended Consequences

The hard line is that people cannot just choose to walk out of work and expect to be protected from unfair dismissal.  If they strike, there are well-established rules about how that is conducted.  Where a workplace has a recognised trade union, the employees may be more likely to comply with the rules, but where there is no such recognition, then there are real risks for employees who want to take action.

Where an employer is prepared to allow employees to use annual leave (or even unpaid leave), there are other consequences.  The work still needs to be done and if the whole workforce decides to take advantage of the extra day off, then employers might be left in a very difficult position.

Alternatives to Climate Strike

As an employer, you might want to get ideas from your employees about alternatives to climate strike.  The point of this action is to pressurise governments and businesses (and all of us) to take action to slow climate change.

Your employees may have ideas about how you, as a Business, can make a difference.  There might be actions that you can take which have a greater effect for a longer time.  There are some very simple things which can make a difference.  Some you might already do, others you may not have thought about.  Things like recycling waste; replacing bottled water coolers with coolers plumbed into the main water supply; reducing thermostats by one degree.  Make sure you use local suppliers.

You may want to make a real difference in greater terms and this would involve looking at your company environmental policy – or setting one up.  You could instigate a review of all of your organisational policies and procedures to identify any impacts on the environment.  There may be smaller changes you can make immediately, or some bigger issues which need planning and financing.

You might even think about organising a special event on the day of the strike, to support the action.  Your employees would then feel they are making a difference, but without the need to join the strike.

Starting a dialogue about climate change

Every employer and employee will have a view about climate change.  If you start a dialogue between all parties, that is the best way to make a difference.

The last thing you need in your workplace is an unofficial walk out by your employees.  This could leave them in an untenable position, without legal protection.  The best way to prevent that is to start by talking to them.

This one day of climate strike could be the start of a new approach from employers (whether or not their employees join the strike).  That snowball could start an avalanche which really could make a difference.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit.  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.

Strategic HR – Making The Difference (A Return On Investment)

How is strategic HR making the difference in Business and what is the return on any investment you  make in HR strategic support?

This can be broken down into three important areas of impact.  These are the operational impacts, the impact on the employees and the financial outcomes.   They are, of course, all interlinked and of equal importance.

Where is strategic HR making the difference?

The most obvious sphere of influence for an HR professional is the impact on the employees, isn’t it?  That is, after all, what HR means – Human Resources, ie. the people.  But the three areas are closely related.  If the employees feel valued and included then they will be loyal to the Business.  Customer service will improve and the impact on the Business operations becomes more clear.

If employees are achieving at work each day and feel loyalty to the Business, then staff turnover will slow down.  You will find it is easier to recruit and keep your employees.  Those employees will be more productive and will perform their work to a higher standard.

If the operational side of the Business improves, then that will have an impact on the financial outcomes.  Profitability will improve and you will start to see revenue growth.

The impact on your employees

If you have strategic HR support for your business decisions and planning, and if you continue to use HR strategy to improve your employee relations, then the impact on your employees is tangible and marked. When your employees understand their purpose and their importance to the Business, then they begin to appreciate other benefits of working for you.  That is strategic HR making the difference.

If employees feel valued and included, they will perform better.  This improves their sense of achievement and loyalty to the Business. Additionally, this means their interest, enthusiasm, customer service all improve.  They will be positive about the Business and your employer reputation will be enhanced. This will help to improve recruitment, turnover, sickness absence rates.  The cycle of improvement will spiral upwards. Again, strategic HR making the difference.

Operational Impacts

In addition to improved turnover, absence statistics, performance as outlined above, there are other potential operational impacts of strategic HR intervention.  Improved performance leads to higher quality and fewer concerns about safety.  If employees are engaged, then they will notice if things are not quite right and they will care about making improvements.  You will find it easier to comply with legislative and governance requirements.  This leads to a lower risk of legal actions against your Business.  Improved performance can also lead to an improved rate of completing tasks and a higher amount of work being achieved.

Your employees are critical to the smooth running of your Business.  They are a major component of the potential achievement of your business goals.  Your employees are your most important investment and it is wise to nurture that investment.

Financial Outcomes

Arguably, the most important impact that strategic HR support can have is on your bottom line.  The financials are, after all, one of the main reasons why you set up the Business in the first place.

If you take care of the people aspects of your Business, you will find that there is a positive impact on all of your financial measures.

When your staff are happier, you spend less on absence cover, recruitment, performance improvements, and so your return on sales and return on assets both improve.

If customer service has improved and the speed and amount of work has increased, then the obvious outcome is revenue growth and higher revenue per employee.   And because your revenues have improved and your expenses are reduced, this means that your profitability is higher.

A necessity, not just “nice to have”

As with most things in life, some planning and preparation go a huge way to making business successful.  The right support is important, as you run your Company on a daily basis.  You pay for strategic financial and marketing advice, so why not include strategic HR support?

This article has demonstrated that an HR strategist can provide a real and tangible return on your investment. By all means, continue to use an in-house administrator or your Personal Assistant to record sickness and absence. Or to calculate maternity pay and leave and other administrative tasks which you might consider to be HR responsibilities.  But if you value your Business and want to improve your bottom line, then please contact us for a no-obligation chat about the difference that strategic HR can make for your Business.

If you think this article is useful and you would like any strategic HR support or information  on how we can make the difference for your Business – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Jill Aburrow runs an HR strategic consultancy business – JMA HR .  She provides strategic HR advice and support to businesses who want to improve loyalty, growth and profit. Why not join the JMA HR mailing list?  Jill has been a professional strategic HR advisor for over two decades. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Employment Law.