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Follow the Japanese leader

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The TUC is recommending that UK business leaders take a leaf out of the Japanese prime minister’s book and allow workers to dress casually during the heatwave.

Last year, in an attempt to reduce energy use, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi took off his tie and urged his country’s workforce to leave their jackets and ties at home so that their employers could turn down the air conditioning or do away with it all together during Japan’s hot, humid summer.

The TUC believes that the best way for staff to keep cool inside when it’s hot outside is for employees to be able to sport more casual attire in the office, perhaps coming in jacket and tie-less, or wearing shorts.

Employers who provide their staff with a cool and comfortable work environment will get more out of them, says the TUC.

And bosses who give summer garb the green light could also save on their energy bills, by turning down or even turning off the air con.

The TUC recognises that for employees attending important meetings or for those dealing with the public, it may not be appropriate for them to turn up to work in clothes more suitable for the beach.

But the union organisation is urging employers not to use bogus health and safety concerns as a reason for banning shorts in the workplace as the heatwave continues.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “We’d like British bosses to work cool and take the Japanese premier’s advice and allow their staff to dress down a little for summer.

“Not only will a cool approach to work avoid staff wilting at their desks, it could also save companies money as they should be able to turn down the air con a notch.

“Arctic-style air conditioning may stop the workplace from becoming like an oven, but its overuse is not good for the environment.

“It’s no fun working in a baking office or factory and employers should do all they can to take the temperature down.

Clearly vest tops and shorts are not suitable attire for all front line staff, but those not dealing with the public should be able to discard their tights, ties and suits. We’re calling on bosses to let their staff loosen their collars and cool down while the heatwave continues.”

The TUC’s working life website WorkSMART has the following tips for dealing with the hot weather:

  • allowing staff to adopt a less formal attire – jackets and ties are out, short sleeves, vest tops and even shorts are in

  • distributing fans to staff and providing portable air cooling cabinets

  • installing air conditioning, and maintaining it regularly, so it doesn’t break down during a heatwave

  • introducing – if it’s not in place already – a flexitime system so, when possible, staff have the option of coming in earlier and staying later to avoid the sweltering conditions of the rush hour commute

  • moving desks away from windows, drawing the blinds or putting reflecting film on the windows

  • allowing staff to take frequent breaks and providing them with a ready supply of cool drinks.

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