Employees urged to know their rights in freezing offices

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With a cold snap arriving after a mild winter, it’s the perfect time to remind bosses of their responsibilities concerning workplace temperatures, says office space search engine OfficeGenie.co.uk.

While flooding has wreaked terrible damage across the UK, temperatures have remained high – until now. And while there’s no maximum workplace temperature there are clear guidelines stating that employers must act if your facility gets a bit too frosty.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state: “During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.”

The associated Approved Code of Practice advises employers to act if workplace temperatures dip below 16°C (13°C for workplaces where people carry out intense physical activity).

This could be anything from using additional heaters to allowing extra hot-drink breaks, or even working out of the office in extreme circumstances. If businesses fail to act in this situation, and employees suffer as a result, they put themselves at risk of legal action.

Peter Ames, Head of Strategy at OfficeGenie.co.uk, said: “With freezing weather on the way, employees may be unaware of their employer’s responsibility to maintain a comfortable working environment.

“We’d urge all staff to know their stuff and inform bosses immediately if workplace temperature is in breach of these guidelines.

“For employers, aside from the legal requirements, a cold office is generally an unhappy one and can be a major drag on productivity.

“Now’s the time to make sure you have a thermometer handy, and to pick up a spare heater in the January sales!”

When to act and what to do

The following advice is provided by the government’s Health and Safety Executive:

  • Provide adequate additional heating (portable heaters for example)
  • Provide breaks in which employees can have hot drinks
  • Prevent exposure to cold through:
  • Designing processes to limit exposure
  • Reducing draughts
  • Insulating floors or providing suitable footwear if employees have to stand for long periods
  • Providing suitable clothing for cold environments
  • Adapt working patterns which allow employees to minimise exposure, things such as flexible working or job rotation
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    AUTHOR

    Molly Dyson

    Former Editor – PA Life

    All stories by: Molly Dyson