Opinion

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Should employees swap work wear for Bermuda shorts in UK heatwave?

3 Mins

According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) the current heatwave has caused such a rise in temperatures that workers are, as they put it, ‘visibly wilting’.

The TUC is campaigning for ‘cooling measures’ to be implemented when temperatures reach 24 degrees centigrade and above, telling employers that members of staff should be allowed to wear shorts and sleeveless tops to work to help them cope with the hot weather.

It’s not something that I completely disagree with, but it’s about applying common sense, not creating new levels of red tape that unionised workers can use to hold their employers to ransom over. 

Not all UK offices have air conditioning, the changeable British weather doesn’t make it as much as a necessity as in Southern Europe or the United Arab Emirates, for example, but with a little common sense we don’t have to drop an acceptable dress code for Copacabana-style beach party the moment the thermometer hits a certain level!

It’s not as if we are all working in a foundry – and even if we did, the last thing we’d be wearing is a vest top and a pair of flip flops, but on occasions the UK has the habit of challenging Spain and the like as the hottest place in Europe!

When things warmed up for a few days last month my HR Manager came to me and asked if office staff could come to work in their summer gear as it was getting uncomfortable in the heat. I agreed and the next day a bunch of them dressed in their shorts. It did the trick and they worked well in the hot weather.

That said, for our engineers, they are expected to be dressed in their ‘Pimlico Plumbers Blues’, which includes long trousers. It’s a disciplinary offence if they don’t. These are the guys and girls meeting and dealing with our customers 24/7 and our uniform is part of what makes us stand out from the rest. 

For some this might sound extreme or draconian, but we have a strict dress code, which is well recognised by our customers. The staff in our offices that had the ‘dress down day’ don’t come into contact with customers all that often so, as an occasional one off, it was acceptable. However, they knew, the moment the temperature dropped, the famous Pimlico Plumbers’ tie would be back around their necks!

The heat can do funny things to people. I just hope while the Unions are getting hot and bothered, employers can be left to keep a cool head and apply simple common sense to staff dress codes before this really does become a heated issue!

Charlie Mullins is the CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers.

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