Will climate change lead to earlier work shifts?

Oxford researchers push for 6am to 2 pm shift while employers like L'Oréal, Nike give midday breaks so employees can fight the heat

Will climate change lead to earlier work shifts?

The traditional nine-to-five working hours may need to becine a little earlier than usual as the world continues to heat up amid a changing climate, according to experts.

Researchers from the University of Oxford suggested that shifting working hours to an earlier 6am to 2pm would be more beneficial to the workforce.

Jesus Lizana, a researcher from the university, said there are organisations in southern Spain that are already implementing the practice.

"It is quite common for outdoor workers in July and August (e.g. builders, agricultural workers) to shift to an early starting hour – like from 6am to 2pm – to avoid working during the hottest hours of the day," Lizana told the Daily Mail.

"Even shops are closed during the hottest hours in summer, closing from 2pm to 6pm and opening again from 6pm to 9pm."

'Immediate' actions needed

The suggestion came Lizana and his fellow researchers discovered that the world will need to take "immediate and unprecedented adaptation interventions" to prepare for a hotter Earth.

Their research, published in the Nature Sustainability journal, attempted to look at the global cooling demand if the global average temperature increased to 2°C.

"African countries have the highest increase in cooling requirements," the report said. "Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Norway (traditionally unprepared for heat) will suffer the largest relative cooling demand surges."

Global efforts for worker safety

Across the world, actions to protect the workforce from the scorching heat have been carried out either by organisations or the government.

Fortune reported that L'Oréal, Asos, and Nike have begun allowing their employees to leave work between midday and 3:30pm on Fridays during the summer months.

In the Middle East, nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have begun implementing a midday work ban to protect the health and safety of workers operating in direct sunlight.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has begun prohibiting employers from making their staff work under the sun from 12 noon to 3pm. The policy will last until September 15.

In UAE, the country implemented for the 19th consecutive year a midday work break policy that bans working in open spaces and under direct sunlight from 12:30pm to 3pm every day from June 15 to September 15, 2023.

In Hong Kong, the government there launched a new three-tier warning system for heat stress to protect workers from the hot weather. It urged employers to make appropriate arrangements for their employees based on the Heat Stress at Work Warning raised at that time.

The Philippine Labour Department also previously issued an advisory encouraging employers to implement flexible working arrangement to limit employees' exposure to extreme heat.

In the UK, which is included among the countries with the highest relative change in cooling demand, employers there have been asked since last year to keep their workplaces cool and employees safe amid the scorching heat.

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