Thermometer showing high temp

Personal injury

What is a reasonable workplace temperature?

What do employers have to do if it gets too hot or cold? How hot is too hot and how cold too cold to reasonably be expected to carry out your work duties?

25 May 2023

The UK is set to experience a summer of scorching temperatures, with the Met Office predicting several summer heatwaves. While this warm weather brings relief after a long winter, it can be quite challenging for individuals working in environments lacking air conditioning or proper ventilation. We explore the legal aspects of workplace temperatures and provide guidance on how employees can navigate heatwaves to safeguarding their health.

Maintaining a reasonable temperature in the workplace

Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers are legally obligated to ensure a "reasonable" temperature in the workplace. Although specific minimum or maximum temperature requirements are not defined, the term "reasonable" allows flexibility in meeting this obligation.

The employers should consider the nature of their work when determining what a reasonable temperature is, as more manual work will have different needs from an office environment.

Recognising heat as a health risk

Doreen Reeves, senior associate solicitor, in employment law, advises employees to view high temperatures as a potential health risk.

She said: “Many employees will be wondering if their employer can force them to work as temperatures increase. This is dependent on a number of circumstances. The regulations will accept that, in certain roles, temperatures can go very high or very low; think of the very high temperatures in foundries and the very low temperatures in refrigerated rooms.

“The HSE provide guidance which suggests the minimum temperature should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius, but that if the work involves rigorous physical effort the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. There is no defined maximum temperature.”

Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees and take action where necessary and where reasonably practicable.

Doreen added: “The temperature of the workplace is a potential hazard that employers should consider to meet their obligations. Employers should consult with employees to establish sensible means to cope with high temperatures, as with other risks.

“This may mean introducing fans, ensuring employees have access to drinking water, taking regular breaks, adapting what you wear to work as long as appropriate for client facing interactions and potentially, where possible, working from home. If employees have any special needs or particularly vulnerable, further support may need to be put in place.”

Contact us

If you believe your employer has breached health and safety regulations, or you have any concerns about your employment, you can call us 0330 041 5869 or contact us online.

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