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Summer heat: Don’t make us the dress code police, says HR

With temperatures expected to reach 34°C later today (17 June), HR practitioners have insisted it is not their job to police their organisations' dress codes.

In an HR magazine LinkedIn poll of 1,800 respondents, the vast majority (79%) said that HR should not worry about keeping office attire in check.

Only 21% responded that a heatwave was no excuse for flouting the dress code.

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Lucy Becque, chief people officer at Coventry Building Society, told HR magazine that the sunny weather felt more like a chance for celebration than heavy-handed use of a dress code.

She said: “People have been taking personal responsibility for doing right thing over the past two years when faced with much bigger decisions. 

“We absolutely trust they’ll keep making the right decisions, whether that’s about what to wear or adjusting hours to work when it’s cooler, particularly at home. And of course, for those people who want to enjoy some air-conditioning, the offices are open and ready.”

Air-conditioning, while not a legal requirement, is one of the ways the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend employers look after staff and maintain a reasonable working temperature.

It also suggests using fans, providing cool water and modifying the organisation’s dress code.

Yet Laura Kearsley, a partner at employment firm Nelsons, said employers are still entitled to insist on certain standards of appearance from staff, particularly for customer-facing roles.

She told HR magazine: “Employers might want to consider providing employees with the opportunity to choose where they want to work on the day when temperatures are expected to soar, either in the office or from home.

“That way, employees will be able to work in an environment that’s the most comfortable for them.”

If that option was not possible, she added, employers will need to familiarise themselves with relevant legislation, such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and do what they can to make working conditions as comfortable as possible.

The HSE thermal comfort checklist is available here.