There is no minimum or maximum working temperature for the workplace.
However, under common law an employer must provide and monitor, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment which is reasonably suitable for the performance by employees of their contractual duties.
This has been held by the courts to include temperature. In one case, an employer was found to be in breach of this duty when requiring a workshop employee to work in temperatures of 49°F. That employee resigned due to what she described as “freezing working conditions”. The employee was successful in showing that the employer had breached their implied obligation to provide a proper working environment, and this was found to be so serious as to be a fundamental breach, such that the employee was constructively dismissed. The fact that the employee had not previously complained about the conditions did not matter, as the managing directors were well aware of the working conditions.
Employers are also under a statutory duty, by virtue of the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees.
Following the extreme weather conditions recently, the GMB and TUC unions have called on the government to set a maximum workplace temperature to protect workers. The TUC has called for a requirement stop work if indoor temperatures hit 30°C, or 27°C for strenuous jobs. The GMB has stated that the maximum indoor temperature should be 25°C.
Some MPs clearly agree. On 11 July 2022 several MPs signed an early day motion which called on the government to introduce legislation to ensure employers maintain reasonable temperatures in the workplace. That motion called for the same maximum temperatures as suggested by the TUC.
We will endeavour to keep you informed of any developments.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.