How cold is too cold, when at work?
The recent extremely cold temperatures caused a headache for employers with staff working in warehouses where they struggled to maintain a temperature in which people were able to work effectively. For those employees working at home, they were suddenly faced with heating bills increasing as they attempted to keep warm whilst working at home.
What do employers have to be mindful of when it comes to keeping workers safe in plummeting temperatures? Businesses which have a split of office-based and remote/hybrid workers shouldn’t forget they have a responsibility to all employees. According to Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, the recommended minimum temperature in a workplace should be at least 16°C, or if the work involves rigorous physical exertion, it can be 13°C.
While there are no laws that state workers can stop working because of temperature-related complaints, employers are under a legal obligation to ensure a reasonable temperature, doing whatever is ‘reasonably practicable’ to safeguard wellbeing, and they must provide a safe environment where staff are not at risk of falling ill from the cold.
It is suggested that employers carry out risk assessments to take account of the recent extremely cold temperatures. Employers aren’t obliged to pay towards heating bills or provide home heaters, but should suggest alternatives for staff who can’t afford to maintain a safe working temperature, such as coming into the office.