Winter has finally arrived in the UK and we have seen many people ask “how cold can my office get before I can go home?”
You may be disappointed to discover that there is no specific law that outlines a maximum or minimum temperature in an office environment, or how cold or how hot it can be before staff are allowed to leave.
However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that employers are legally obliged to provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace under the Workplace Regulations 1992. There is no ‘one size fits all’ rule that covers every situation however, and what exactly is “reasonable” will vary depending on the nature of the work and those involved.
Under its Approved Code of Practice, the HSE states ‘a workplace should be at least 16C, or at least 13C if a person’s work involves rigorous physical effort’, and these temperatures must be achieved by the end of the first hour of work.
However, this applies to general work place environments, not areas where lower temperatures are specifically required such as fridges or food preparation areas. In those cases, extra warm clothing would be expected to be provided by the employer.
These are of course arbitrary numbers – some people will feel the cold more than others, and most people are unlikely to have a thermometer with them to measure the exact temperature.
ACAS advises that any employees feeling uncomfortably cold in the office should raise it with their line manager so that it can be addressed.
As it currently stands, there is no maximum temperature set down for work places, but it’s likely to be a good few months before that bothers any of us here in the UK anyway.