The highs and lows of office temperatures

The highs and lows of office temperatures

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Last week’s fantastic heatwave predictably resulted in a flurry of calls from employees suffering in hot and stuffy offices asking me what the maximum temperature in an office should be. Conversely, I also received a number of enquiries about minimum office temperature as some employees were left shivering as a result of overzealous air conditioning in response to the scorching temperature outside.    

Oddly, whilst there is a specified legal minimum temperature there is no maximum. The reason that no maximum temperature is specified is because of the high temperatures found in a number of specific roles/sectors such as glass works or foundries.

The minimum temperature stipulated in law is 16°C.  This is reduced to 13°C if the work you are undertaking is strenuous.

Whilst there is no legal cap on maximum temperature, for guidance the World Health Organisation recommends 24°C as the maximum temperature for comfortable working.   

The legal obligation under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 is that employers must maintain a reasonable temperature in the workplace.

But what is a reasonable temperature?  This is a tricky question to answer as different employees have different comfort levels and sedentary workers would prefer a warmer working environment to those who are on their feet all day. 

Generally, to determine what is reasonable employers should undertake a risk assessment and determine the optimum temperature for their specific working environment and circumstances and ensure they have heating and cooling equipment to adjust the temperature accordingly, particularly in response to heat waves or cold spells.  If appropriate, permitting employees to relax dress codes in extreme weather is also considered good practice.

 This blog was brought to you by Tess Barrett, solicitor at didlaw