How to manage chilled out employees in the cold weather

What are the minimum working temperatures in the UK?

Brace yourself – winter is here! Despite the Christmas festivities being a source of great excitement and anticipation, gloomy weather inevitably comes along with it. Ice-cold mornings, grey days and drizzly evenings become the theme of our glorious British climate.
It comes as no surprise that employees are much happier – and at maximum productivity – when working in an environment with a comfortable temperature. Attempting to save money on your bills by keeping the heating levels to the bare minimum will only result in a drop in productivity and possibly a few disgruntled employees (throw a coffee shortage into the situation and you might have a mutiny on your hands!). However power cuts and boiler breakdowns can provide an unexpected crisis.
The UK law states that employers must provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace. While there are no prescribed upper limits it is suggested that the minimum lower indoor working temperature is 16 degrees Celsius, or 13 degrees if the work performed is very physical. This temperature needs to be reached within an hour of work starting so having an alternative heat form is a good idea.
Plummeting temperatures also make for poor driving conditions and dangerous, icy roads. It may be wise to suggest to your employees that they allow time in the morning in order to de-ice their car and to make time for slower, more cautious driving. All in all though, some things are just out of your control – so if an employee is delayed because of the weather then they certainly will appreciate your understanding.
Throughout the winter months it would come as a shock to see anyone stroll in to the office wearing a Hawaiian shirt and board shorts. We’re 99% sure you won’t encounter this (although Tim from finance has always been a bit weird), but warm clothing is a necessity and unfortunately standard work wear doesn’t always keep the cold at bay. One way to laugh off the cold weather could be to host a woolly hat competition and encourage employees to come in one day with the warmest (and most ludicrous) hat.
If you’ve turned all the radiators in the building up to full whack and the office still feels like an igloo, you could nip out and buy a few electric radiators to turn your corner into a sauna.
Like all things connected to the health, safety and wellbeing of staff it is important to carry out a risk assessment before the event, paying particular attention to those most affected. For your business having a written continuity plan to deal with adverse conditions such as long power cuts and snow can make life much simpler.
If the weather looks like it will take a real turn for the worse and there is a danger of staff being snowed in, it is worth reminding employees of their obligations to you; basically that it is their responsibility to find a way of getting to work so that they get paid.
Weather will always be a problem, not just for businesses, but everyone. As an employer you may not be able to prevent the fog, icy roads and hailstorms, but taking just a few simple steps will go a long way in ensuring that your employees are warm, safe and happy.
If you need help managing people in the cold weather or for contingency planning, get in touch with The HR Dept.

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Ian heads up the HR Dept Edinburgh & the Lothians team. The HR Dept specialises in helping SMEs with everything to with employment, through a local and personal service delivering practical and pragmatic advice and support. With nearly 30 years HR experience, Ian has a wealth of experience in helping businesses to ensure success through their people, be legally compliant and handle tricky people issues. As a business owner himself, Ian understands the challenges that come with running and growing a business. He is known for his ability to explain complex concepts simply and to make learning fun and enjoyable.

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