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Health and Safety

date: 17 July 2006

embargo: 00.01hrs Tuesday 18 July 2006

Hot workers urged to adopt cool Japanese summer dress code

The TUC is today (Tuesday) launching its 'cool work' campaign as it urges employers in the UK to follow the lead of Japanese businesses and relax dress codes as the temperature rises.

Last year, in an attempt to reduce energy use, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi took off his tie and urged his country's workforce to leave their jackets and ties at home so that their employers could turn down the air conditioning or do away with it all together during their hot, humid summer.

The TUC believes that the best way for staff to keep cool inside when it's hot outside is for employees to be able to sport more casual attire in the office, perhaps coming in jacket and tie-less, or wearing shorts.

Employers who provide their staff with a cool and comfortable work environment will get more out of them, says the TUC. And bosses who give summer garb the green light could also save on their energy bills, by turning down or even turning off the air con.

The TUC recognises that for employees attending important meetings or for those dealing with the public, it may not be appropriate for them to turn up to work in clothes more suitable for the beach. But the union organisation is urging employers not to use bogus health and safety concerns as a reason for banning shorts in the workplace as the heatwave continues.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'We'd like British bosses to work cool and take the Japanese Premier's advice and allow their staff to dress down a little for summer. Not only will a cool approach to work avoid staff wilting at their desks, it could also save companies money as they should be able to turn down the air con a notch. Arctic-style air conditioning may stop the workplace from becoming like an oven, but its overuse is not good for the environment.

'It's no fun working in a baking office or factory and employers should do all they can to take the temperature down. Clearly vest tops and shorts are not suitable attire for all front line staff, but those not dealing with the public should be able to discard their tights, ties and suits. We're calling on bosses to let their staff loosen their collars and cool down while the heatwave continues.'

Advice featured on WorkSMART, the TUC's working life website, says that in the searing heat there are many things that people can do to keep cool, and dressing down can be the most effective solution. Bosses should only stop staff from wearing shorts to work if they have first carried out a proper risk assessment, and only people whose jobs could prove hazardous should still be made to work in long trousers.

WorkSMART says that although the law states that staff should work in a reasonable temperature, there is no legal maximum. The TUC website calls on employers to do all they can to stop their premises from becoming unbearably hot. Measures they are advised to take include:

  • Allowing staff to adopt a less formal attire - jackets and ties are out, short sleeves, vest tops and even shorts are in;
  • distributing fans to staff and providing portable air cooling cabinets;
  • installing air conditioning, and maintaining it regularly, so that it doesn't break down during a heatwave;
  • introducing - if it's not in place already - a flexitime system so that staff that can have the option of coming in earlier and staying later to avoid the sweltering conditions of the rush hour commute;
  • moving desks away from windows, drawing the blinds or putting reflecting film on the windows; and
  • allowing staff to take frequent breaks and providing them with a ready supply of cool drinks.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- The workSMART advice on how to handle working through a heatwave is at www.worksmart.org.uk

Contacts:

Media enquiries: Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248; M: 07778 158175; E: media@tuc.org.uk

Press release (700 words) issued 18 Jul 2006


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