Earlier this month, 50 teenage boys turned up to school wearing girls’ uniform in protest against a ban on wearing shorts.
While the school has since considered changing its uniform policy, workers everywhere can relate in some way or another to the students’ displeasure with strict uniform policies.
Air conditioning is a rare commodity in Britain – and there’s good reason for it; it’s almost completely unnecessary. But when the sun does strike, where do employers stand in the uniform debate between smart and summer?
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.”
“Reasonable” used to lie between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F), but there is now no exact reading.
As a general rule, you must assess the situation if your office is air conditioned and 10 per cent of your staff complain. This goes up to 15 per cent for non-air conditioned offices, and 20 per cent for shops and warehouses.
The TUC believes that the maximum legal temperature should be set at 27°C where people are involved in strenuous work, and 30°C for all other employment.
Hugh Robertson, head of health and safety at the TUC, said it is “absolutely ridiculous” that there is no set limit.
“We can’t sue an employer unless someone has a stroke or dies of heatstroke,” he added.
However, said Mr Robertson, employers are perfectly in their right to force workers to wear a tie, and have no obligation to use mobile cooling equipment.
A recent Employment Tribunal ruled that requiring men to wear a collar and tie did not necessarily amount to sex discrimination if that was the only way of achieving equal levels of smartness for men and women.
There is also no law letting employees leave the workplace in scorching weather – even for those who carry out physical work. Aside from sunscreen, there is really very little protecting workers from a heatwave.