LibraryAcceptable working temperatures: don't get left out in the cold

Acceptable working temperatures: don't get left out in the cold

It’s cold outside – and the temperature in the office can be as unpredictable as the British weather itself.

Do you or your colleagues add an extra layer of winter woollies whilst shivering at your desk or is the heating cranked up so high that the climate is almost tropical?

And as an employer, how do you keep the workforce happy and productive when the office heating issue can be something of a frosty discussion?

Head of employment at Buckles Solicitors LLP, Giles Betts said: “As with most topics affecting the workplace, there is legislation covering an employer’s obligations and employees’ rights.”

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 set out the employer’s legal obligation to provide a 'reasonable' temperature in an indoor workplace.  

Additionally, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees, and take action where necessary and where reasonably practicable.

Guidelines to employers are that they maintain a reasonable temperature inside the building during working hours and that enough thermometers must be provided.

The HSE approved code of practice suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius.

If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements; the employer has a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances.

Giles added: “There is no legal requirement to meet these exact numbers, however, employers are expected to consider the individual circumstances of the workplace and consider what would be a comfortable temperature.

“They should have carried out a risk assessment which tackled such issues as keeping the workplace at an appropriate temperature to ensure there is no risk to the health and safety of employees.

“If a large number of employees bring concerns about temperature to their employer’s attention, they will have to consider whether the current approach to keeping the workplace warm is adequate as part of their ‘duty of care’ – so if everyone seems to have a problem with how cold it is, you should complain to your employer about it, not just each other.”