With temperatures soaring this week, top employment lawyer Rustom Tata has reminded employers of their duty of care for employees working from home.

Rustom Tata is Chairman of law firm DMH Stallard and head of the firm’s employment group.

Rustom Tata said:

“It’s well known that in most workplaces there is no specific upper limit when an employee is allowed to down tools and stop working. But what does this mean in the context of home working when millions of employees are still estimated to be working remotely as a result of the pandemic?

“Many employers are rightly cautious about rushing their staff back to work, fearful either of employees who resist and challenge the effectiveness of measures taken to make the workplace Covid-secure, or worse of finding that there is an outbreak at the workplace as part of a second wave.

“The HSE refers to the need for temperatures in the workplace to be ‘reasonable’, and that employers need to keep temperatures at a ‘thermal comfort’ level, providing clean and fresh air.

“But when an employee is working remotely the employer would appear to have little or no control over the working environment. Nevertheless an employer ought strictly to be undertaking an audit of staff working environments – often the assessment will be carried out by a member of staff themselves.

“Employers are used to thinking about chair and desk set up and screen heights, but employers should also consider thermal comfort. That will include checking that the working environment benefits from sufficient light (and heat in colder times) but also cooling facilities. While employers won’t generally be obliged to provide (and maintain) portable air-conditioning units it may be appropriate for desk fans to be provided to staff.”