Too Hot to Work in the Office?

Too hot to work in the office - thermomenter

Too Hot to Work in the Office?

Unlike in 2018, when the sun came out the beginning of May and stayed out for three glorious months, the summer of 2019 has been a bit of a slow starter. It took until well into June to get any weather that might have created a situation of it being too hot to work in the office.

At this point it’s worth noting though that the Met Office’s meteorological definition of summer isn’t the traditional one. If we’re going to be proper about it, summer begins (in the northern hemisphere) on the summer solstice. Depending on the shift of the calendar the northern hemisphere’s summer solstice takes place between the 20th and 22nd June.  So as grotty as early June was, summer began pretty much bang on time.

Anyway – to the point. There’s a heatwave going on, and your offices don’t have air conditioning and what you want to know is:

  • Can your staff leave work if it’s too hot?
  • Is there a maximum workplace temperature?

The gospel according to the Gov.UK website states that: ‘During working hours the temperature in all indoor workplaces must be reasonable.’ But there’s no law decreeing maximum or minimum working temperatures. The best there is, is guidance on the minimum temperature when employees are engaged in physical labour.

All the above said, the TUC have stated a belief that employers should set a maximum temperature of 30c, with a top note of 27c for those doing strenuous work.

Too hot to work in the office - thermomenter

Despite the absence of a legal high temperature, it goes without saying that, as an employer, you must abide by health and safety at work a law and do all you can to provide your staff with:

  • A temperature maintained at a comfortable and reasonable level.**
  • Clean, fresh air

**Reasonable being defined by the HSE as: dependent on the type of work being done (manual, office, etc) and the type of workplace (kitchen, air-conditioned office, etc).

In addition to the Workplace Regulations, the 1999 Management of Health and Safey at Work Regulations call on you the employer, to make appropriate assessments of their employee’s health and safety risks. Then take necessary and practicable actions.

And of course, the workplace temperature is a potential hazard.

Six Steps to a Safe Hot Weather Workplace

The Health and Safety Executive spells out six factorsthat you the employer must consider in assessing if your workplace is safe. They are:

  1. Air temperature
  2. Radiant temperature
  3. Air velocity
  4. Humidity
  5. What clothing your staff wear
  6. The average age at which they work.

To help you, they have a thermal comfort checklist. They recommend that you get your employees to fill it out so you can determine if they’re experiencing thermal discomfort.

Desk fan

The right air conditioning

A word about air conditioning. Should you work in offices with air conditioning, and should you be in a position to influence its settings. And should you have female staff members, you might want to take note of this article in The Metro from a couple of years back.

Everyday sexism is alive and well in the temperature at which most air conditioning is set. A study carried out by two Dutch scientists at Maastricht University, found that the thermostats in most offices are based on the resting metabolic rate of a 40-year-old-man. This as per standard air con guidelines that date back to the 1960s. All of which fails to consider that women tend to be smaller and to naturally have more body fat – it’s to do with biology. Ergo they have slower metabolic rates. So, while your male employees are nice and comfortable thank you, your female staff members could well be turning blue.

So, if you are in a position to influence it – do it.

If you’re at all unsure of your obligations in keeping your staff as comfortable as possible in hot weather, or you’d like help with any of it then speak to Go-Legal and we’ll advise. No sweat!!

 

 

All About Employment Tribunals

all about employment tribunals

September 2018

All About Employment Tribunals

Many of you will be aware of the challenges faced by Employment Tribunals, employers and claimants since the introduction of fees in 2013 and their subsequent removal in 2017.  

all about employment tribunals

The Government’s rationale for introducing the fees in the first instance? To cut the number of weak and/or malicious cases. Indeed, as reported in this article from the BBC, government statistics showed that employees brought 79% fewer cases over a three-year period. But, as we know, we can make statistics tell us what we want to hear.  So it’s no surprise that the trade union, Unison, counter claimed that the fees prevented workers from getting justice.

Supporting Unison, the Supreme Court ruled that the government had been both unlawful and unconstitutional in introducing the fees in the first place. With fees ranging from £390 to £1,200 too many workers in low-pay jobs couldn’t uphold their workplace rights, pointed out the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady.

 Because discrimination cases are more complex and time-consuming the charges for those were highest. The Supreme Court found that situation to be one of indirect discrimination because women are more likely to bring discrimination cases.

The article quotes Unison secretary Dave Prentis as saying: ‘We’ll never know how many people missed out because they couldn’t afford the expense of fees.’

Since the scrapping of the tribunal tariff in July 2017 there’s been a dramatic change to the tribunal landscape. We’ll look at the effects of that and what it means to HR in a moment. First though, a quick look at the mechanics of an employment tribunal.

What do employment tribunals do?

In simple terms, an employment tribunal makes decisions about employment disputes. Employment tribunals hear almost all legal cases about employment. That figure includes cases about such things as unfair dismissal, redundancy and discrimination. Though unhappy employees can bring all sort of claims to an employment tribunal.

A good HR department/employer ought to be aware of problems and be tackling them before they get to the point of reaching tribunal. If you’ve got a conflict situation that you’re struggling to resolve yourself, Go-Legal offers a professional mediation service. Visit the Services page on the website and look for ‘Disputes’.

A tripling of tribunal claims

The MOJ recently published the tribunal statistic for April – June 2018:

According to the Ministry of Justice, the number of receipts for single claims more than doubled when compared with the same quarter in 2017, up to 10,996. Receipts for multiple claims more than quadrupled in the same period, the MoJ reported. Though that was thanks to a large multiple airline claim.’

  • The quarter period saw 42,700 multiple claims. This is an increase of 344% on the same period in 2017. Though, to give some perspective to that, there were over 23,000 claims in relation to one employer!

 

  • The number of single claims lodged increased by 165% compared with the same quarter last year. Tribunal fees were abolished in July 2017, so this is a reliable figure as April to June 2017 was the last full quarter when fees were in force.

 

  • The number of single claims outstanding rose by 130% compared with the same quarter last year. HM Courts & Tribunal Service is in the process of recruiting more employment judges, which will help reduce the backlog in the medium to longer term.

 

None of this should have come as a surprise to anyone. With the abolition of fees, a tribunal tsunami was bound to ensue.

Are you an employer on the receiving end of a claim from an aggrieved staff member?

Go-Legal is here to both support you through it and give you the best chance of winning the case. Visit ‘Services’ on the Go-Legal website and select ‘Employment Tribunals’ for all you need to know.