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Temper the temperature

Question

I work in an office that's sweltering in the summer freezing in the winter. Are there any guidelines for temperature control at work?

Answer

There is a legal minimum temperature in the workplace, but strangely not a maximum. In most places like offices and shops, where there is not a great deal of strenuous manual work, the minimum temperature is 16C. For places where work of a more physical nature takes place the minimum temperature is 13C. Even so, they are only guidelines and not enforceable by law.

If you're working in a cold store or another large open building, such as a warehouse, where it would be difficult or impossible to keep to these temperatures, the company should provide suitable clothing and extra rest breaks to allow you to warm up.

When it comes to the maximum temperature the law becomes ambiguous. All employers must ensure that the temperature of the workplace does not have a detrimental effect on the health of the employees and all reasonable steps must be taken to achieve a comfortable temperature. The problem is it's not clear what the phrase 'reasonable steps' actually implies.

If you would like to test whether or not the situation in your workplace is reasonable you can contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and make a complaint. You should know that if you do make a complaint to the HSE the company could fire you. If they were to do so it could be classed as an automatic unfair dismissal and as, such you, could make a claim to an Employment Tribunal for compensation.

Before making an official complaint you may want to consider talking to someone from Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) on 08457 474747 or the HSE on 0845 345 0055 and ask their advice on a way forward. It is possible that you could report the issue anonymously which would help to avoid any issues around dismissal.

It's also worth considering simply talking to your supervisor or boss about the situation. They may be sympathetic to the issue, and share your interest in making your working environment more comfortable. For further help and advice, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

Updated: 29/01/2013


Question answered by CAB


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