UK Heatwave Prompts Calls for More Workplace Protection
Workspan Daily
July 22, 2022

A historic and deadly heatwave rolled through the UK earlier this week, prompting unions to call for people to get legal protection against high temperatures in UK workplaces. According to reports, temperatures reached as high as 40C (104F) 

The GMB union said the government should set a maximum temperature for workplaces of 25C, meaning employers should offer flexible working and travel arrangements, give staff extra breaks and relax dress codes to allow staff to wear cooler clothes,” wrote The Guardian’s Harry Taylor. 

Taylor also reported that while there are rules regarding minimum temperature levels in UK workplaces, there are no laws that set a maximum level. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has previously said that employers have a responsibility to ensure that working conditions are “reasonable,” but there is no specific temperature limit. 

“Bosses need to do everything possible to keep workplaces cool and, more importantly, safe. This can be as simple as letting people wear more casual clothing and providing proper hydration,” Lynsey Mann, the union’s health and safety officer, told the Guardian.High levels of UV exposure also mean that outdoor workers have a much higher risk of developing skin cancer. Simply allowing more breaks and providing sun cream and protective clothing, such as hats with neck covers, can help reduce this risk. 

“Ultimately, there needs to be a legal maximum working temperature in the same way we have a legal minimum working temperature, and it is in employers’ interestsworkers who are overheating aren’t going to be at their best.” 

Feds Investigate Workplace Safety at Amazon Warehouses 

NBC News has reported that the Justice Department is investigating possible workplace safety issues at Amazon warehouses and whether injuries were hidden from inspectors. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) went to warehouses outside New York City, Chicago and Orlando, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said. 

The spokesman, Nicholas Biase, said that among the possible worker hazards is “Amazon’s required pace of work for its warehouse employees.” 

Biase said that OSHA entered the warehouses on July 18 on referrals from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. That U.S. attorney’s office is one of the most high-profile federal prosecutor’s offices in the United States. 

Biase’s statement did not refer to any specific incidents at Amazon warehouses, but the U.S. attorney’s office included ways that members of the public and current and former workers can report issues. 

It mentioned safety issues related to the pace of work, as well as failure to report injuries and a failure to receive proper care at Amazon’s first-aid center or at provided recommended by the company. 

A statement from an Amazon spokesperson said, “We’ll of course cooperate with OSHA in their investigation, and we believe it will ultimately show that these concerns are unfounded.” 

Illinois Governor Signs CROWN Act Into Law Protecting Against Hair Discrimination 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently signed the CROWN Act into law, protecting Illinoisans against discrimination due to hairstyles historically associated with specific racial groups. The act, which stands for Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair, categorizes traits such as hair texture or protective styling as race-based and therefore protected under bans against racial discrimination, according to a press release 

In 2021, Gov. Pritzker signed the Jett Hawkins Act, introduced by Sen. Mike Simmons, which banned hairstyle discrimination in Illinois schools. The CROWN Act, introduced by Sen. Mattie Hunter, expands these protections to other covered situations under the Illinois Human Rights Act, including employment, housing, financial transactions, and public accommodations. Illinois is one of only a handful of states to pass the CROWN Act, a national version of which passed the U.S. House of Representatives but has failed to advance in the U.S. Senate. 

The bill expands and clarifies the definition of race to include traits commonly associated with a race, including by not limited to these hairstyles and textures. 

The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023.  

Canada: Percentage of Employees Working Remotely Decreasing 

A new survey by Statistics Canada revealed that the percentage of employees working exclusively from home is decreasing slightly — from 19% in May to 18% in June 

Benefits Canada reported that among these employees, it found a fifth (18%) said they report to an office or job site located in a region to which they couldn’t commute on a daily basis, while 10% said they report to a job site in a different town or region within their province. 

Just 5% said they report to a worksite located in a different province and fewer than 3% reported to an office or worksite located in a different country. In addition, the survey also found that hybrid work increased slightly to 6.7%. 

“In a context where job vacancies remain high, some businesses may continue to explore options to widen their recruitment pool and increase retention by allowing their employees to work from a different province or region,” Statistics Canada said in a press release. 

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