Should dress codes in the workplace be relaxed in the hot weather?

Tuesday 10 July 2018

As the sweltering temperatures continue – many people working in office environments are faced with a daily wardrobe dilemma!

The question of what to wear in the current heat wave has been on the lips of many employees each morning for the past couple of weeks.

And with the hot weather showing no signs of easing, questions arise as to how employers can help combat the effect on their workforce and what legal implications does this type of weather impose on employers.

Nicola Cockerill, senior solicitor in the employment team at Buckles Solicitors LLP, said: “You may be surprised to know that there is no maximum legal temperature that a workplace can be!

“The Health and Safety Executive states ‘during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

“We now venture into the age-old question of what is reasonable and, as is often the case, there is no one set rule for everyone. Much will depend on the nature of the work undertaken, the workplace environment and the workforce as to what is deemed to be ‘reasonable.’”

Nicky added: “A common issue that arises in the warmer weather is in respect of what people wear in the workplace and whether it is suitable attire.

“Many employers have dress codes which form part of their business’ policies and procedures. An employer has the ability to relax this code should they wish to but there is no legal requirement to do so. If it is relaxed, then it is important to ensure that it is clearly communicated to the workforce what is and is not acceptable. Consideration will need to be given to health and safety requirements and, depending on the nature of the work and the type of workplace, it may not be possible to relax some rules.

“For example, where there is a requirement to wear personal protective equipment then these will still need to worn. Where there are no PPE requirements then consideration should still be given to whether particular items are appropriate, for example flip flops, shorts etc.”

However, what happens in the event if a member of staff requests to deviate from the dress code due to a medical condition?

Nicola added: “If this could potentially amount to a disability under the Equality Act, then it would be sensible to consider this request as it could be considered to be a reasonable adjustment.”