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Businesses shut as record heatwave hits the UK

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Two people sit on deckchairs near the Lloyds of London building in London. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images

Small businesses across the UK are shutting today while others are telling employees to work from home as record breaking temperatures make many offices uninhabitable.

Businesses took to social media on Wednesday to warn customers that they would be shutting due to the forecast temperatures on Thursday.

Surrey-based dog rescue Celia Trust tweeted that it would be closed on Thursday due to the “extreme heat,” while mental health charity Lindengate also said it would be closed.

The impact of the high temperatures is being felt particularly in the food sector, where ingredients can spoil and high temperatures can feel even hotter in kitchens.

Max’s Sandwich Shop in North LondonBoabab Biltong in South London, and North London cafe The Battenberg Badger all said on Twitter that they would stay closed on Thursday.

Other businesses across the country were letting staff work from home on Thursday, as the Met Office warned temperatures could reach 39°C in some part of the UK on Thursday. If reached, it would break records for July and all-time records in the UK.

‘We need maximum working temperature’

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Wednesday urged businesses to allow staff to come in late or work from home and dress down this week in a bid to help them cope with the heat.

“The easiest way for staff to keep cool inside is being able to work in more casual clothing,” said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “While shorts and vest tops may not be appropriate for all, nobody should be made to suffer in the heat for the sake of keeping up appearances.”

The TUC and the GMB Union both called for changes to the law to introduce a maximum legal temperate for workplaces. Employers would have to either install air conditioning to keep the office below that temperature or send staff home if the temperature cap was breached.

“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,” Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said.

“A lot of workers don't have air conditioned offices, when a heat wave really hits there can be serious - even deadly - implications.

“Employers can't just see this a seasonal irritation and force workers to crack on regardless of how hot it is. It's not safe.”

Jo Davis, an employment partner at law firm B P Collins, told Yahoo Finance UK employers had only “limited” formal obligations when it comes to office temperatures.

“The law provides that workplace temperatures must be “reasonable”, but there is no upper limit on the temperature at work,” she said.

She said bosses should be “sensible” when it comes to managing the heat.

“If you have air conditioning, turn it on,” Davis said. “If not, introduce fans, pull down the blinds and open windows. Relax the dress code where possible and, if the conditions become unbearable, consider allowing staff to work from home or let them leave early.”