As the UK braces for the first cold snap of the year, an employment lawyer has unveiled the specifics regarding the temperature at which Brits can be sent home from work.
With Storm Henk causing severe flooding and the Met Office issuing a yellow ice warning for parts of south-east England, questions arise about when it is too cold to work and if employees can request to work from home during adverse weather conditions.
Jayne Harrison, Head of Employment Law at Richard Nelson LLP, emphasises the importance of workers proactively discussing and establishing working arrangements with their employers.
She underscores that employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees, including maintaining an adequate workplace temperature during cold snaps.
However, she clarifies that there is no specific legal temperature at which employees are excused from work.
What conversations should employers be having with their employees?
Harrison encourages individuals with conditions exacerbated by cold weather, such as Raynaud’s disease or arthritis, to engage in conversations with their employers. If feasible, arrangements for remote work during adverse weather conditions can be considered, promoting a balance between productivity and employee well-being.
Despite the absence of a specific law regarding acceptable working temperatures, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 Approved Code of Practice requires employers to provide a reasonable indoor temperature. The regulations suggest a minimum temperature of 16 degrees Celsius or 13 degrees Celsius for work involving severe physical effort.
Employers are not only responsible for maintaining a suitable indoor temperature but should also consider adapting dress codes to allow for warmer and weather-appropriate clothing. This flexibility in attire may contribute to employees’ comfort and well-being during chilly weather conditions.
For those working outdoors, employers are obligated to take measures to protect employees exposed to cold for extended periods. This includes providing adequate clothing and personal protective equipment, establishing warm rest areas, and supplying hot drinks to mitigate the impact of cold weather on outdoor workers.
As the winter weather takes hold, the advice from employment lawyers like Jayne Harrison becomes crucial in fostering a collaborative and considerate approach between employers and employees to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.