The next few days of forecast high temperatures “may be a moment to work from home” a senior Government minister said on Saturday as unions grabbed the opportunity to demand the right to stop working if temperatures hit, er, 25°C. The Telegraph has more.
Cabinet Office Minister Kit Malthouse has warned that road and rail faced “significant disruption” due to the heatwave as he urged people to avoid travelling on Monday and Tuesday.
Number 10 also warned schools against closing because of the risk that unsupervised children could come to harm in the scorching temperatures.
Senior ministers and officials met as part of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee ahead of a 48-hour period in which temperatures are expected to clear 104°F (40°C) in parts of England.
Mr. Malthouse said: “Obviously, the transport providers are messaging people that they should only travel if they really need to on Monday and Tuesday.
“Services are going to be significantly affected. The heat will affect rails, for example, so the trains have to run slower. There may be fewer services. People need to be on their guard for disruption. If they don’t have to travel, this may be a moment to work from home.”
Mr. Malthouse said steps have been taken to ensure hospitals and ambulances that may come under pressure were prepared.
Schools were also issued with guidance to enable them to remain open. One official said: “It is better for kids to be supervised in that sort of weather. There is a risk that if kids are off school they won’t be supervised and there is more risk they will come into contact with rivers and lakes and there are vulnerable kids who will be left completely alone.” [And for their education?]
Union bosses are calling for workers to have the day off if conditions exceed 25°C, and for employers to provide sun cream, hats with neck covers and more breaks to reduce the risk of heatstroke.
GMB Union, which represents over 50,000 workers, has demanded that a legal maximum working temperature be imposed in all working environments across the country, and suggested that if bosses fail to provide cool enough conditions, workers should walk out.
They have also called on employers to impose “workplace adjustments” such as providing hats, suncream, protective clothing, flexible dress codes, extra breaks, flexible working and travel arrangements, air conditioning and water access.
The heatwave comes amid a summer of strike action across the travel, health and legal sectors and the latest calls from unions have sparked condemnation from MPs who claim that the hot weather is “just another bandwagon to jump on” and have dismissed calls for “a blanket ban” and to just “send everybody home when it gets to a certain temperature”.
Currently, temperatures in indoor workplaces are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which places a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace. This is often interpreted as being at least 16°C.
However, there is no legal maximum temperature. As a result, unions are warning that “workers need protection in soaring temperatures” and that a legal maximum temperature of 25°C should be imposed nationwide as the record-breaking heatwave is set to hit the U.K.
The TUC and Unite unions have previously called for a maximum indoor working temperature of 30°C to be introduced – with the maximum limit falling to 27°C if employees are carrying out strenuous work. However, the GMB limit of 25°C is the first time that unions have called for such a low limit.
So unaccustomed are Brits to hot summer days that they think it’s an emergency when a few come along.
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