Hot under the collar?
Workers tempted to dress-down in the record temperatures could find themselves in trouble, Leamington Spa solicitors Ollerenshaw have warned.
And already it is happening. Sweltering railway workers have been threatened with disciplinary action if they arrive wearing shorts, union leaders complained yesterday.
Network Rail introduced a policy last summer stating trousers had to be worn at all times on site, but it has only come into force this month.
The company claimed unions fully supported the move - "super lightweight" linen clothes had been introduced to help workers stay cool.
But the Rail Maritime and Transport union said it was not happy with shorts being "banned". It called for a copy of an NR risk assessment.
RMT deputy general secretary Mick Cash said: "In the current extreme temperatures it beggars belief railway bosses sitting in air conditioned offices, counting fat bonuses, can impose such stringent restrictions. All our members want to do is keep cool but a number have been threatened with disciplinary action if they do not wear trousers."
The TUC has urged employers to relax dress codes.
Jane Hobson, head of employment law at Olleren-shaw, said: "The law recognises an employer's right to protect its image and reputation and this includes being able to dictate a dress code.
"This right is not unlimited however and a balance has to be struck between the employer's business interests and the reasonable freedom and comfort of workers.
"In the absence of any express rules it will be implied into all contracts of employment that an employee will dress suitably and appropriately for work. But what is considered suitable and appropriate is not easy to define and is therefore open to interpretation." Mrs Hobson went on: "Dress codes will often go beyond clothing to cover styles and length of hair, piercings and make-up.
"The further the restrictions go then the more likely it is the rules may give rise to tension and potential claims of discrimination and breaches of human rights."
She said severe breaches of dress codes could in some cases justify the dismissal of an employee.
But an employment tribunal would expect an employer to have good reasons for asking workers to dress in a certain way. The tribunal would also be likely to take into account the employee's reasons for breaching the code, as well as the manner in which the employer had enforced the rules.
Richard Linskell, an employment partner at Dawsons Solicitors, said employers should consider sending workers home as a result of the current hot weather.
Mr Linskell said: "It is not just a question of high temperatures making people irritable and less efficient. Companies must ensure that their employees are not put at risk of collapsing with heat exhaustion or dehydration.
"Additional methods of cooling and ventilation should be provided if temperatures are not reasonable and plenty of drinking water should be provided.
"For outdoor workers, such as those on construction sites where they may be wearing heavy safety clothing and where they may be at risk of falling from height, employers should ensure that regular breaks are taken and that employees are drinking the water that is made available."