MILLIONS of Brits are still working from home during the pandemic – so what are your rights if the temperature drops?
It comes as an Arctic blast sweeps across the nation, bringing weather warnings for snow, ice and frost before the New Year.
Employees have the same rights when working from home as in the workplace and that includes working in "reasonable temperatures."
This could cause frozen pipes and boiler breakdowns, but can you still be expected to work from home or could you be ordered into the office?
We've spoken to the experts to find out your rights when working from home in cold temperatures.
When is it too cold to work?
There is technically no legal minimum temperature for workplaces, either at the office or in your spare room.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) say a workplace should provide "reasonable comfort".
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Switch – When you've found one, all you have to do is contact the new supplier.
It helps to have the following information – which you can find on your bill – to hand to give the new supplier.
- Your postcode
- Name of your existing supplier
- Name of your existing deal and how much you pay
- An up-to-date meter reading
It will then notify your current supplier and begin the switch.
It should take no longer than three weeks to complete the switch and your supply won't be interrupted in that time.
It states: “The temperature inside the workplace should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing.
“If reasonable comfort cannot be achieved because of hot or cold processes, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable.”
There is no legal definition of reasonable comfort but the HSE recommends a workplace should normally be at least 16C.
If work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13C.
Amanda Finn, an employment law expert at Gullands Solicitors, told The Sun these rules also apply to an employee working from home.
She said: “Just as an employer has duty of care to an employee’s health and safety in an office building, they also have the same duties if they are working from home.”
Should an employer pay for my heating?
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) advises employers to conduct a risk assessment of an employee’s workspace at home.
This typically applies to making sure you have the right equipment and are sitting properly, rather than paying for your heating though.
John Palmer, senior Acas adviser said: “It is important for employees to be able to work safely and comfortably from home.
“If an employee’s heating has broken down and they feel it is too cold to work then they should get in touch with their boss and raise it as a health concern.”
Ms Finn explained the rules don’t stretch to heating bills or providing heaters if yours breaks down, unless your boss changes your contract to make working from home permanent.
She suggests some employers may go as far as supplying an electric heater or could just tell you to come into the office.
If the office is closed due to the pandemic, Ms Finn said the employer may ask you to take holiday, unpaid leave or could just pay you for the day if it is a temporary issue.
Can I be forced back in the office?
The government’s pandemic guidance currently said you should work from home “if you can effectively do so", particularly those in Tier 4 areas.
Ms Finn said it is pretty hard to work effectively from home if it is freezing cold.
If your office is open an employer can ask you to come in as long as they have made the workplace Covid-safe.
She adds: “The guidance only says to work from home if you can.
“If it is not safe at home that throws you back to going into work.”
Ms Nunn explained you may get into trouble at work if you refuse to come in but adds that you can argue that it is safer to travel in later when it is quieter on public transport.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, adds: “If workplace temperatures fall below 16 degrees, employers must help staff make alternative arrangements, or not expect them to work.
“Employers should agree a policy with unions before winter sets in and problems arise like household boilers breaking down.”
It comes as boiler breakdowns are expect to hit 200,000 homes this winter.
Getting your boiler fixed can be an expensive business, and the average cost is £182 each time. Compare any quotes you get so you can see if they are reasonable.
Find out your rights if it is also too hot to work from home.
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