In its Changing Work in a Changing Climate report – published to coincide with a TUC conference on climate change – the union urged employers to start planning ahead to protect staff from predicted future climate extremes.
The report recommended that the government produce guidance on how employers can adapt workplaces to deal with the impacts of climate change, a new minimum temperature should be introduced above which employees should not be expected to work, and employers should work with their staff to create sustainable adaptation policies.
The recommendations come after the TUC interviewed 134 organisations about steps they are taking to minimise the effects of climate change and only one said it had paid serious attention to how their staff might be affected.
Other organisations said they were starting to think about how to equip staff with the knowledge, skills and equipment to work safely in a changing environment, but they have not yet taken practical steps to implement this.
The TUC’s general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: “Employers who take the challenge posed by climate change seriously and consider the welfare of their staff as they adapt will reap the benefits with a more motivated, highly skilled and well-equipped workforce.”
The TUC warned employers to think specifically about the risk to staff from flooding, working outside as summer temperatures rise, and commuting as severe weather conditions start to affect transport links.
Employers will need to provide workers with improved work clothing, headwear and suncreams and better ventilation, the union said.
The report predicated the changing climate will have a significant impact on emergency services and health workers, who will have to deal more often with problems associated with floods and extreme heat.