October 16, 2023

Working in the winter season: How it can affect Employment

This post was written by: Laaibah Bhatti

As the days grow shorter, and a crisp chill fills the air, the arrival of the cold weather season profoundly impacts employment across various industries.

While winter brings snowfall and cosy evenings, it also presents unique challenges for both employers and employees.

So what does the law say about working in cold temperatures?

For many workers, there are no specific laws that give a limit at which a workplace may not operate.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 put an obligation under law for employers to maintain a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace.

However employers, still have a duty of care for employee health and safety. Risk assessments should be conducted to determine if extremes of temperature pose a risk to health and wellbeing at work.

Can You Refuse to Work if It’s Too Cold?

Your employer should be aware of any uncomfortable working conditions. They should make any reasonable adjustments to maintain their duty of care responsibilities.

However, simply refusing to work without legal justification may result in disciplinary actions or termination, so it’s advisable to seek guidance and follow proper procedures if you believe that the conditions are unsafe.

In the event of frozen pipes and no running water, it may be necessary for staff to go home or the premises to be closed until the issue can be rectified. However, ideally you shouldn’t walk out of work in any circumstances but should come to some agreement with your employer.  Having no running water would be a breach of Health & Safety regulations so it is likely your employer will make alternative arrangements with you.

Working in cold temperatures

Everyone has the right to be comfortable at work. It can be tricky to achieve this when it is freezing but there are some steps your employer can take.

  • Making sure the building is kept as warm as possible, ideally 16℃ or above.
  • Ensuring there is fresh running water.
  • Allowing extra breaks for warm drinks.
  • Allowing you to wear warm clothing such as jumpers and coats
  • Keeping an eye on the weather for worsening conditions.

Duty of Care

The duty of care that an employer owes to its staff may also extend to travelling in to work where conditions are dangerous.  For instance when it is particularly icy and the roads have not yet been treated or where there are other weather-warnings, employers should take heed and consider whether alternatives are available.

The cold weather season brings unique challenges to the world of employment, from workplace safety and seasonal unemployment to issues related to remote work and employee wellbeing.

It is essential for both employers and employees to be aware of the legal aspects surrounding these challenges, and to take proactive steps to ensure a safe, productive, and compliant work environment during the winter months.

For more information, please contact our employment solicitor at imardarescu@astonbond.co.uk or 01753 486 777.