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Workplace Heat: Guidance for Language School Workers

By Ryan - TEFL Workers Union, July 14, 2022

Heatwaves are becoming increasingly common in the UK. Language schools are rarely purpose-built and, sadly, few employers are willing to spend the money to do anything beyond basic repairs. We’ve all experienced leaky roofs, drafty and/or stuffy staff rooms, and windows painted shut. With temperatures set to regularly hit the mid-30s, it’s important workers know their rights when it comes to workplace temperatures.

What’s the law?

UK law does not set an upper limit for the temperature in the workplace. Instead, health and safety legislation requires that workplace temperatures be “reasonable”. The World Health Organisation recommends a limit of 24C for indoor workplaces.

Workplace temperature is covered under an employer’s general duty of care towards their staff. Employers are required to ensure workplaces are safe for all those within them.

What should my employer do?

All employers are required to undertake a risk assessment once a risk – such as high heat – has been identified.

Risk assessments must be undertaken by a competent person and employees should be consulted in any assessment. The results of the assessment should be available to staff.

With any workplace risk, employers should implement the “hierarchy of controls” to manage the risk.

What can I do?

If you’re concerned about the temperature in your workplace, you should raise the matter with management. This is especially the case if you are pregnant or you have a long-term condition that may be affected by high heat. Don’t ever suffer in silence!

You may want to consider raising your concern collectively with your workmates. This can be done with a petition, a group email, or a request for a staff meeting.

If there is a recognised union in your workplace, employers are required to create a workplace safety committee if two or more union reps request it.

If management doesn’t undertake a risk assessment or you think it’s inadequate, you can take out a grievance. While most employers don’t have a policy on collective grievances, it’s always more powerful to raise issues collectively. Speak to a union rep for guidance on how to raise a collective grievance. 

The IWW can also contact your employer directly on behalf of our members. The union is an asset, use it!

Workers may also want to consider making a complaint with the Health and Safety Executive, which enforces health and safety regulations in the UK.

Finally, if your workplace temperature is so high that it is an immediate threat to your health, you can refuse to work. However, this is a drastic step and it’s always best to seek union guidance before refusing work.

Further information:

Guidance on workplace temperature can be found on the website of the Health and Safety Executive.

As always, speaking to a union rep is important for both knowing and enforcing your rights.

If you work at a language school anywhere in the UK, you can reach a union rep at



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