What Should Your Workplace Temperature Be?

August 5, 2015

Workplace Temperature

It is HR’s responsibility to make sure employees are working in comfortable conditions – or, at the very least, conditions that meet the legal requirements!

Two questions I am sometimes asked, is “what laws are there surrounding workplace temperature?” and “what temperatures are considered too hot or too cold for my employees to work in?”.

Well, if you live in the UK, then I have an answer for you – but unfortunately, it’s not very specific!

Temperature at Work Law

To find out the answer to these questions, I took a look at “The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992”.

This document covers all sorts of employer responsibilities in terms of looking after their workforce… but what I found when it came to discussing temperature at work, is that they don’t have a very specific answer – the only thing that is very clear, is that employers do indeed have a responsibility to ensure the workplace temperature puts workers within their ‘thermal comfort zone’.

It’s hardly surprising that a specific temperature can’t be given, though – as stated within the document itself, so many factors contribute to what an individual’s ‘thermal comfort zone’ will be, which means that what applies to one person will not apply to another. For example, if one worker tends to wear thick thermal undergarments and knitted woolly jumpers, then they may well survive more comfortably in lower temperatures than a worker who likes turning up in nothing but shorts and a t-shirt!

But even though the official legislation on this matter doesn’t provide a precise answer, it does give general guidelines for what the minimum workplace temperature should be:

“For workplaces where the activity is mainly sedentary, for example offices, the temperature should normally be at least 16 °C. If work involves physical effort it should be at least 13 °C (unless other laws require lower temperatures)”.

And in terms of maximum temperatures, many people suggest that this is thought to be around 30°C.

So there you have it! There is no concrete answer to what the workplace temperature should be – but if you ask me, the best way to approach it is to simply make sure your people are comfortable. I think it would take a very mean person to drop the thermostat to the bare legal minimum just to save a few pennies – what do you think?


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