Nicolas Duchesne, an attorney at Martin Lawyers, says staff suffering from excessive heat or cold in their workplace should speak with their employer immediately and must give them a reasonable amount of time to rectify the problem. Library picture: Patricia Pitsch/Maison Moderne
How hot is too hot to work in an office? The answer in Luxembourg is: it depends.
The grand duchy experienced three heatwaves this summer--in late June, late July and late August--with temperatures hitting up to 39°C.
There are also minimum workplace temperatures, which range from “12°C for workplaces where heavy physical work is carried out” to “20°C for offices”, according to Inspectorate of Labour and Mines (ITM) rules. (There are different sets of regulations for specific types of workplaces, such as a steel mill or food processing facility.)
However, when it’s 26°C outside, then there is no maximum temperature inside a workplace without air conditioning, according to Nicolas Duchesne, an attorney at Martin Lawyers.
Temperature range is relative
Those 20°C and 26°C thresholds are open to some minor interpretation. The law will look at the overall situation and circumstances, said Duchesne. A difference of a couple degrees would probably be permitted. For example, if it has hit 40°C outside and 28°C or 29°C in the office, “I don’t see that’s something where a court would fine an employer”.
That said, there is another section of the labour code that applies, Article L. 313-1, which says that employees are, to a certain extent, responsible for ensuring the health and safety of themselves and their colleagues. Under that provision, “extreme heat [could] in fact be considered as a danger, in which case an employee should immediately notify [their] employer,” stated Duchesne.
Reasonable time to react
In any event, employees must give their employers a reasonable chance to correct any problem, said Duchesne. There is no particular time limit; it comes down to what is reasonable for a ‘regular person’. For example, if the AC or heat has broken down and the employer has already called a technician, then staff simply have to wait until the repairs are made.
Employees cannot take industrial action or leave the workplace during this time, Duchesne told Delano. “At no point do we advise to stop working. The law is clear, [employees] must notify their employer immediately.” If the problem is not resolved in what they consider a reasonable amount of time, staff should seek advice from their staff delegation or trade union, or ITM if they do not have such representation.
“Then if really nothing happens, we recommend contacting an attorney.” But Duchesne said that probably would not be necessary, as bosses usually sort out technical glitches, or temperatures eventually return to more normal levels.
In fact, Duchesne checked court records in early September and could not find any cases concerning excessive workplace temperatures that went to trial “in recent years”. He told Delano that this type of case is “not that usual”.