As wintry weathers have suddenly hit the UK, and temperatures rapidly fall well below zero, how cold can it possibly get in your place of work before it is in your legal right to leave and go home? Considerable parts of the country have been covered in a thick blanket of snow, creating icy roads, dangerous footpaths and public transport cancellations. During working hours, the temperature in all indoor workplaces must be reasonable for the safety of staff and potential customers. However, there is no law which states the minimum or maximum temperature that a workplace should closely stick to. On the other hand, there are some guidelines which are outlined in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations of 1992. These guidelines suggest a minimum temperature of 16 degrees Celsius in the workplace, and 13 degrees Celsius if the work in question involves a considerable amount of physical work.
Fundamentally, it is the responsibility of your employer to keep the temperature of the work place comfortable for everyone and employers are expected to consider the individual circumstances of the workplace and take into consideration what would be a comfortable temperature. Additionally, your employer should have carried out a risk assessment which addresses such issues, as it is important to keep the workplace at an appropriate temperature to ensure there is no risk to the health and safety of employees and the business. If a significant number of employees recognise an issue with the temperature, it is advised that the employer in the workplace should be approached for them to deal with the situation. Next, when employees are required to work outdoors in temperatures which may be below zero, it is still the responsibility of the employer to provide the correct items to keep each staff member feeling at ease. This may include certain measures such as providing warm drinks and allowing regular breaks for the employees. Also, if a uniform is required to be worn by members of staff, a warmer alternative should be provided that can be worn in times when temperatures reach freezing.
In many cases, freezing temperatures and snow leads to severe travel disruptions. If there is a situation where an employee is unable to attend work due to dangerous weather conditions, the employer is entitled to give the employee time off work. However, this may be taken as unpaid leave. To avoid this, suggesting to an employer that you would like to take it as a holiday may be beneficial because the member of staff will not be left unpaid for a circumstance they are involved in that is no fault of their own. Moreover, if an employee has children and they experience a school closure due to the weather conditions, the employee should be given the right to have the time off work because these situations are pandemically recognised as an emergency situation.
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