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“Is it true that you don’t have to stay in the office if it gets too hot?” This and other common HR myths debunked!

Written by Simon Morgan, HR Dept South East London and North Kent.

The sun has well and truly got its hat on at the moment. But if you’re working in an office without air conditioning, you’re probably not enjoying the prolonged heat wave that most of the UK is currently experiencing. In fact, as the mercury rises and tempers start to fray, it’s not uncommon for rumours to start flying round the office that you should be sent home when it gets “too hot”. Unfortunately for those workers taking it in turns to stand in front of the office’s one ancient fan, that’s not quite true. Read on to discover more about that myth and some other common HR misconceptions about the summer.

Myth 1: We’ll all be sent home if it gets too hot.

Unfortunately for those sweltering in the office, there’s no set maximum temperature. The Health and Safety Executive requires that “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings should be reasonable”. What is ‘reasonable’ depends on the type of work being undertaken and other environmental conditions.

Myth 2: I can wear different clothes when it’s hot in the office

This is down to your employer’s discretion, and depends on the official dress code and workplace culture. If you’re usually required to wear a uniform, or a shirt and tie, assume that this is the case whatever the weather unless you’re given official notification to the contrary. Remember that you’re still dressing for work no matter how much you’d rather be at the beach, so what you wear has to be appropriate and practical. If you’re traipsing up and down stairs all day or around heavy equipment, flip flops are unlikely to be suitable, whatever the weather!

Myth 3: I can carry over any unused holiday.

If you’ve got your eye on an extra long holiday next year, you may be tempted to save some of this year’s annual leave and put it towards the Big One. Don’t just assume that you’ll be allowed to do this. There is no legal right for it to carry over unused leave unless it’s written into your contract, so if you are planning to do this, check with your employer first.

Myth 4: I don’t have to work bank holidays 

Again, this is untrue. It’s up to individual employers to decide whether they want their employees to work bank holidays. If your place of work is closed on a bank holiday, your employer can choose to include that as part of your annual leave entitlement. 

Myth 5: I’ll get paid more for working a bank holiday

There is no legal requirement for your employer to pay you anything above your normal day rate for working one, unless your written contract states something to the contrary.

It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom this summer; many employers do go above the legal minimums – but where this happens, make sure you view it as a bonus rather than a right. Read your contract and employee handbook to make sure you know exactly what you’re entitled to so you don’t spent your summer hauled in front of HR!

For advice and help on any aspect of HR, contact Simon Morgan at The HR Dept South East London and North Kent at [email protected].