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Labour wants to regulate workplace temperatures

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2019/07/17: City workers and tourists gathered at Moor near the Tower Bridge during a warm and sunny day in London. The hot weather continues in the UK, according to the Meteorological station, rain is forecast across the country during the next few days. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
City workers gathered near the Tower Bridge during a warm and sunny day in London. Photo: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Labour has unveiled a new policy to introduce laws on maximum temperatures for workers.

The scheme was announced on Thursday, which was the UK’s second-hottest day ever recorded. Temperatures hit 38.1C in Cambridge — just short of the all-time high of 38.5C.

The new laws are aimed at protecting workers and would force bosses to introduce “effective heat controls” once temperatures go over 30C — or 27C for those doing “strenuous work.”

READ MORE: How bad is the UK heatwave?

These controls would include air conditioning, extra breaks, and the options to wear shorts and t-shirts. Workers may also be allowed to simply work from home on too-hot days.

If bosses did not comply, workers could appeal to unions or the government Health and Safety Executive agency, which regulates enforcement of workplace health, safety, and welfare practices.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn first broached the subject of a “maximum workplace temperature” during the 2015 Labour leadership election, but it had not yet been adopted as Labour policy.

READ MORE: UK heatwave — what happens to your body when it gets too hot?

UK workers currently have no legal safeguards to protect them while working in uncomfortable or even dangerous heat.

There are no absolute laws for minimum or maximum working temperatures, with health and safety regulations simply requiring them to be “reasonable.” While the current guidance suggests a minimum working temperature of 16C or 13C for employees doing physical work, there is no maximum temperature limit.

READ MORE: UK heatwave — why does hot weather cause travel chaos?

“As we’re all being reminded this week, working in hot conditions is really uncomfortable, often stressful, and it makes us less productive and even ill,” shadow business minister Laura Pidcock said.

“Plus it’s often the lowest paid and most insecure workers who suffer the most.”

“We believe everyone should have the right to basic protections from working in unbearably hot conditions.”

READ MORE: UK heatwave leads to surge in sales of air coolers

GMB, Britain’s general union, has backed the call for a maximum temperature.

"Employers can't just see this as a seasonal irritation and force workers to crack on regardless of how hot it is. It's not safe,” Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, said.

"The law as it stands doesn't properly protect working people. We need a maximum working temperature enshrined in law because everyone has the right to come home from work safe and healthy."

READ MORE: UK heatwave: What are your rights on public transport and in the workplace?

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