Office workers can prepare for the cold snap before winter bug bites

December 2, 2019

With the British weather being as unpredictable as it is – it’s never too early to prepare for that unexpected overnight snowfall or the sudden flu bug that hits the office.

From frustrating journeys into work or the car engine that won’t tick over on a frosty morning, to a last-minute re-organising of the school run or a child off sick; winter weather presents many challenges for bosses and employees alike.

However, with some common sense, best practice and something of a contingency plan – many of us can beat the winter blues – says Peterborough-based Anne Corder Recruitment.

While there is no law for minimum or maximum working temperatures, for when it’s too cold or too hot to work, guidance from the Health and Safety Executive suggests a minimum office temperature of 16ºC.

ACR recruitment partner Karen Dykes said: “Despite this, employers must stick to health and safety at work law, including keeping the temperature at a comfortable level and providing clean and fresh air.

“Employees should not be afraid to speak to their employer if the workplace temperature isn’t comfortable. An employer should have carried out a risk assessment which tackled such issues as keeping the workplace at an appropriate temperature to ensure there is no risk to the health and safety of employees.”

As well as a statutory duty of care, many bosses will consider other factors of cold weather which may impact on their staff:

  • There may be an opportunity for flexible or remote working if the member of staff has to commute a distance to get into work and trains or buses are affected
  • Make allowances for late arrival due to road conditions or leaving the office early if there is a late afternoon forecast for snow
  • Ensure workers are offered or have access to hot drinks throughout the day
  • Allow staff to dress appropriately for the weather conditions
  • Advise employees of any bugs or seasonal-related illnesses which are affecting the office / team – and send people home if they are unwell
  • Monitor the workplace temperature and conditions and bring in additional heating if the temperature falls below a reasonable level
  • Keep a check on employees’ whereabouts, particularly if they are working outdoors and ensure there is two-way contact.

Karen added: “Unfortunately, there is not a strict legal minimum or maximum temperature for how cold the temperature can be before you’re able to go home from work in both England and Scotland.

“The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 ‘require 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.”