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With Britain going through a cold snap and many parts of the UK expecting snow in the coming week - you might be wondering about your rights at work

What are my rights at work during cold weather?

With Britain going through a cold snap and many parts of the UK expecting snow in the coming week - you might be wondering about your rights at work. Hopefully your workplace will let you know directly about their plans for bad weather, but just in case, here are some general rules and guidelines provided by the government.

How cold does it have to be to not work?

While there is no specific law stating what temperature it should be for it to be too cold to work, but the Workplace (Health and Safety Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that working conditions should be kept at a ‘reasonable’ temperature. What a reasonable temperature might be will depend on the type of work you do.

What is the minimum working temperature in an office?

The Approved Code of Practice published by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests that workplaces should be heated to at least 16°C.  If the temperature is cold enough to affect the plumbing at your workplace it could mean that you shouldn’t be at work.

The HSE say that workplaces should have toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand-dryer and drinking water available for employee use. If frozen pipes mean that your workplace is without running water you could be asked to go home.

What is the minimum working temperature in a warehouse?

If your job involves rigorous physical activity the Approved Code of Practice recommendation is a minimum temperature of 13°C.  

Outdoor working temperature regulations

If your work takes place outdoors, then there’s no minimum temperature guidelines. However, your employer should manage the risks associated with working outside where possible. This could involve more frequent breaks during very hot or very cold weather, providing hot drinks and making sure you have adequate clothing and personal protective equipment.

It's too cold at work, what can I do?

The most important thing to do when your workplace temperature is too cold is to talk to your employer. It’s part of their duty of care to make adjustments to keep the temperature at your place of work to a reasonably comfortable level.

Legal minimum temperature for schools to close

The minimum temperature that must be maintained in classrooms has been set by the Education School Premises Regulations 1999.

The regulations state that the heating systems in schools must be capable of heating the classrooms up to a minimum of 18°C and that the temperature must be maintained while the room is in use. In areas of high activity like the gym, the temperature should be at least 15°C.

The headteacher should also consider whether it would be safe for children to get into school, or if enough staff will be able to come in to supervise.

If your child’s school is closed due to cold weather they should give you notice directly, or through the local press.

What if I can't get to work because of snow?

Your employer can ask you to take annual leave if you’re unable to come in due to bad weather. However, they will need to give you enough notice, which must be at least double the amount of time they are requiring you to take off. So if they ask you to take one day’s paid holiday they should ask you to do so two days in advance.

If your workplace offers flexible working they can ask you to work from home or make up time later if you can’t get in. If your contract doesn’t include flexible working, employers can’t insist on this.

Do I have to walk to work in the snow?

Your boss can’t force you to make a journey that’s unsafe. If you can’t get into work and your workplace is open, it could be marked down as unpaid leave. Get in contact with your boss as soon as you find out that it might be difficult to come in

If your workplace offers flexible working they can ask you to work from home or make up time later if you can’t get in. If your contract doesn’t include flexible working, employers can’t insist on this.

Do you get paid for snow days?

If your place of work is closed because of the snow and you don’t usually work from home then your employer shouldn’t deduct any pay from you according to .gov.uk. They might require you to work from home or from a different location to usual.

Do I have to come to work if my child’s school is closed?

If you need to stay at home because your childcare arrangements have fallen through then you are entitled to take dependant leave. This is usually unpaid unless it says otherwise in your contract. You should let your work know as soon as you find out that the school or nursery is closed.

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