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Can car dealership staff refuse to work in this sweltering heat?

  • Temperatures are set to reach a record 41C today
  • Car dealership workers are among those struggling to cope
  • Lawgistics spells out the rights of staff and the obligations of bosses

Time 11:23 am, July 19, 2022

With the nation sizzling and temperatures in the UK set to reach a record 41C today, car dealership employees are among those buckling under the heat.

But is there a threshold at which they can tell their bosses they’re not going to work? Just what are their rights?

Lawgistics, which provides legal services to the motor trade, says its helpline has been getting lots of phone calls about whether staff have the right to not work when certain high temperatures are reached.

And it says the short answer is no.

But employers must ensure they’re doing all they can to keep their staff cool, especially in areas where extra heat could be created.

Legal adviser Nona Bowkis says in the company’s latest legal update: ‘The law dictates a low temperature level which employees shouldn’t work in but there is no maximum temperature restriction.

‘However, employers still have a duty of care toward their employees.

‘Bosses should make sure they are doing all they can to keep their people cool, especially in areas where machinery might generate extra heat.’

She said obvious measures include:

  • Keeping windows open to allow some flow of air in the absence of an air conditioning system
  • Installing a water cooler in all areas to make sure people have access to plenty of fluids
  • Adjusting the dress policy or uniform style

The measures could also include buying everyone an ice cream.

All this, said Bowkis, would help show that employers are keeping an eye on the temperature and its effects on employees.

She added: ‘Any workplace with staff who might have issues with regulating their body temperature, such as menopausal women or people with medical conditions, will want to consider supplying these employees with a fan.

‘No one wants to experience hot flushes or any heat-related side-effect that makes them feel they can’t come into work, ie, due to the potential embarrassment of sweating like the proverbial, breaking out in a heat rash, heatstroke, etc.

‘In short, employees can’t legitimately refuse to work in the heat, but employers do need to exercise a duty of care.’

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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