Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.
Is it actually possible to move you in an area with no air conditioning?
So assuming this does happen, is there anything that they can do in the current office environment to help you?
A good starting point is to look at The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and related statutory instruments, which impose a general duty on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. This includes a duty to undertake risk assessments and manage activities to reduce the risk factors. In addition, under common law an employer owes a duty of care towards its employees, the breach of which can amount to negligence.
The issue is how far is an employer expected to go to achieve this. Humans may have various different sensitives or issues which may be affected by a wide range of variables in the working environment and it may be impossible to ensure that everyone is not affected in any way. There will be obvious risk factors but air conditioning is unlikely to be one of them as millions of workers work in such environments without any issues. So this is clearly a more individual problem than a clear health and safety risk that can affect the workforce in general.
That does not mean the employer cannot be expected to do anything about it and of course there will be a duty on them to try and deal with it as best as possible. They cannot be expected to withdraw the air conditioning in general so it is about what is available and feasible. This could be placing you in an office which does not have AC, allowing you to work from home, etc. However, if there are no offices that have no AC and it is not practical to create one then they cannot be expected to do this. Similarly, whilst working from home can be an option it would depend on how practical that is and if your work will be affected by it.
Your rights will also depend on whether you are classified as disabled under law (it does not have to be a physical impairment for this to apply) and in that case the employer will have a strict duty to make reasonable adjustments.
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Whether you can get them to keep an office really depends on a number of factors - how big they are, how practical it would be to keep one of them, etc. So if it is just a room that they can keep separate from the AC part of the office it may not be that unreasonable. However, if it is another big open plan space they cannot really be expected to keep all of it open just for you. So it will always depend on the individual circumstances as each case will be different based on its facts and what is available, feasible, practical, etc
I would agree that they should be more accommodating when they have empty office spaces and if they are not used then they can allow you to work there for longer. I am thinking that if you can shoe your condition which is affected by the AC amounts to a disability your rights will be much stronger if you go down the disability discrimination route, which I can discuss with you in more detail if needed.
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Thank you. In the legal sense of the word, disability can have a broad meaning and there is no single list of medical conditions that qualify. Instead, to establish whether a person is disabled, they need to show that they meet the legal definition of a ‘disability’.
The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.
I will break this definition down:
If a person satisfies the above criteria, they will be classified as being disabled and will have automatic protection against discrimination, which means that they must not be treated unfavourably because of their disability. In addition, their employer would have a duty to make reasonable adjustments if they are likely to be placed at a substantial disadvantage when compared to non-disabled employees.
What amounts to ‘reasonable adjustments’ can have a wide interpretation and often depends on the individual circumstances. Below are some examples:
So you can rely on these stricter requirements under disability laws to try and push through a more permanent and adequate change to your working environment.
ok if this is not linked to a condition that would amount to disability then your rights go back to the general health and safety obligations as described initially
You are welcome, all the best