Much of the UK has been faced with floods and below-C 0C temperatures this week as the Met Office issued many weather warnings for wintry hazards.

It's been a fairly brisk one as of late, to put it mildly.

As we cosy up to heaters and wrap ourselves in blankets, many will be wondering if it is too cold to work.

Were you aware that you, as a worker, have rights for situations such as these?

Is it too cold to work?

According to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, the minimum temperature recommended in a workplace should be at least 16C. If the work involves physical exertion, it can be lower, at 13C.

However, this is just a recommendation and not a legal requirement.

It states: “The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing.

“Where such a temperature is impractical because of hot or cold processes, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable.”

Can I stop working from home if it is too cold?

As there is no legal maximum or minimum temperature that people can work in, there’s not a yes or no answer to working from home during the colder months.

However, by law, employers have a 'duty of care' to make sure working temperatures are reasonable for staff.

This means that if extreme temperatures are expected, employers should:

  • make plans for keeping staff comfortable and safe
  • carry out health and safety risk assessments
  • remove or reduce any risks found

Jonathan White, legal and compliance director at National Accident Helpline told People Management that employers must carry out risk assessments because special considerations must be made for those with existing health conditions that could be worsened or impacted by cold temperatures. 

He added that employers must do whatever is ‘reasonably practicable to safeguard their workers’ wellbeing. This includes those working from home.

Can my employer pay for my heating?

Many will be noticing the heating bill rising on work-from-home days and while your employer is not liable to pay your bill, they can offer alternatives to help ease the colder days.

Alexandra Mizzi, legal director at Howard Kennedy LLP told People Management that employers can give staff practical advice.

News and Star:

She said: "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."

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How cold will it get?

In parts of the country, temperatures could plummet as low as -10C.

Met Office Chief Meteorologist, Steve Willington, said: “It is staying cold with daytime temperatures remaining only a few degrees above freezing in many places over the coming days and overnight temperatures dropping to -10°C or lower in isolated spots.

"Although below average, these temperatures are not that unusual for this time of year.”