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Working in a heatwave: What are your legal rights if you think it’s too hot to work?

The UK is set to experience another heatwave, with extreme temperatures and an amber warning ahead of this weekend. With the last heatwave seeing a whopping 2,950% increase in searches for the ‘legal heat limit to work in the UK’ – it’s clear that warm weather working is on everyone’s minds. Although some people are able to close operations over this hot period, some industries must continue on so it’s important to know all the facts about staying safe. 

Nick Higginson, CEO at Phoenix Health & Safety, explains what the law says about working in hot weather:

“It is up to an employee to alert their employer if they feel the temperature conditions make it an unsafe work environment. The Government doesn’t give specific guidance on a maximum temperature limit, and employees should talk to their employer if the workplace temperature isn’t comfortable1. Whilst an employer has a duty of care for their employees, it is an employee’s responsibility to take the first action on any temperature concerns.” 

To help those working outdoors in the hot conditions, Phoenix Health & Safety and skincare experts at Face the Future have provided useful tips on how to stay safe during the heat.

Staying safe whilst working in the heat


Regular breaks are a simple and very effective method of improving your safety at work.

Nick says: “As temperatures rise, employees may find concentration and energy levels negatively impacted. In hot temperatures, your body works harder to stay cool, so you may start to feel fatigued, restless and easily irritated”

“Ensure that you’re taking regular breaks throughout the day to cool down. If possible, look to take a 15-minute break every 2 hours or a 5-minute break every hour and seek shade. The time lost will be repaid in quality of work and minimising the risk of long-term sickness.”


Keeping hydrated is a given when working in hot conditions. Keeping track of how often you are hydrating will help avoid heat-related illnesses.

Nick says: “When temperatures rise, our body sweats out the essential nutrients that help us to function. Drinking plenty of water is important, but we must also replace lost electrolytes. Try a recovery drink or a low sugar energy drink alongside your two litres of water per day – this should allow you to function at your best throughout the day alongside a good diet.”

“If you’re not fully hydrated, this can adversely affect the performance of complex mental or manual tasks, and even lead to heat stroke.”

Reschedule work to a better time

Having flexibility around working hours can be beneficial during the hotter months.

Nick says: “The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) advises that if you can, you should try to reschedule any labour-intensive tasks to cooler parts of the day2. Daily temperatures are usually hottest around 3pm, but it could start earlier in the afternoon, so keep an eye on the weather apps.”

“If possible, try to do your taxing tasks in the morning or the late afternoon/evening, and try to work and rest in shaded areas throughout the day.”

Protect your skin

It’s really important to protect your skin when working outdoors, as Kimberley Hulme, Head of Clinic at Face the Future explains 

“You should wear SPF everyday, regardless of the weather to protect your skin, but it is even more important during hotter months when there is an increased risk of burning.

“Apply your SPF in the morning before leaving the house and be sure to top up every two to three hours to ensure you are protected from the sun’s harmful rays.If you are concerned about how you’ll reapply throughout the day, opt for a SPF stick or mist that can easily be applied on the move.

“If you can, also consider wearing a hat to provide additional protection for your face and neck.”



For managing your staff safely, visit Phoenix for their IOSH Health and Safety courses.

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