How cold does it have to be before you can legally go home from work? This is what the law says

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As the brisk winter months roll in, in offices across the country, eyes are beginning to swivel to the thermostats, talk turning to the chill air creeping in.

But is there a legal minimum temperature?

Is there a legal limit on how cold it can be before you can go home?

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.

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It probably isn't going to be quite as cold as this just yetIt probably isn't going to be quite as cold as this just yet
It probably isn't going to be quite as cold as this just yet

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), “the Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16C.

“If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13C.

“These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements; the employer has a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances.”

'The temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable’

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Regarding the temperature of indoor workplaces, The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.”

However, “the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, such as a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse,” explains the HSE.

Legal obligations of the employer

Although minimum working temperatures are not set it stone and it is the employer’s duty to decide on reasonable temperatures, your employer is still legally obliged to address potential hazards.

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.

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“The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should address to meet their legal obligations.”

There is no legal minimum temperatures for those working outdoors, but employers are expected to rely on thermal risk assessments to maintain a reasonable level of thermal comfort and controls such as job rotation, more regular breaks and cold weather clothing.

The availability of a thermometer is required by law, so that workers can check the temperature in any workplace inside the building.