In the last couple of weeks, the UK has seen a drop in temperature. Currently, temperatures have become milder, but a return of the colder weather is expected to happen around mid-January 2023 – as reported by the UK Met Office. The current cost of living crisis experienced in the UK has affected energy consumption and awareness amongst the population due to rising costs. Concerns regarding heating expenses are rising, and home workers will be affected.
Working from home requires workers to provide and maintain their own working environment. With colder temperatures, employees working from home will now be responsible for creating a suitable work environment for themselves. Working in the office means that energy usage of their household can be lessened during their working hours, but home workers will have to be responsible for their energy consumption during work.
Suitable Workplace Conditions
According to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, it is recommended that workplaces should have temperatures at least 16°C, or if activities are physically rigorous can be 13°C. Applying this to home workers, with temperatures possibly hitting sub-zero, they now have to face increased energy expenses that they consume while working.
It should be noted that employers have a duty of care toward their employees – including those who work from home. If an employee is struggling with energy expenses, they may choose not to have proper heating at home – which may lead to declining physical and mental health. This is when the legal responsibility of an employer to ensure reasonable temperatures is highlighted.
This has caused calls for employers to better support their employees who are working from home through the cost-of-living crisis and the blistering winter. However, currently, there are no laws that require employers to aid their employees with energy bills – there are recommended measures that employers can follow to better support home workers.
What Employers Can Do
Employers should do all that is within reason to safeguard their employees’ well-being. Some recommendations for employers to support their employees who are working from home include:
- Carrying Out Risk Assessments
With changes in temperature and circumstances due to the weather and the cost-of-living crisis, employers are recommended to carry out additional risk assessments for vulnerable employees. Health issues may be exacerbated due to plummeting temperatures – and employers should ensure that there are considerations in place to support those in need.
- Encouraging Home Workers to Maintain Safe Temperatures
Employers should always encourage their staff to maintain safe working environments. They should also provide support and advice for employees working from home to do so. While employers are not obliged to cover energy bills for their employees who work from home, they should consider alternative measures to support staff who are struggling financially to meet safe working temperatures.
- Consider Implementing Tax and Benefits Rules for Home Workers
Employers may choose to make payments of £6 a week or £312 per year to an employee for reasonable additional costs for working at home. This is not an obligation for employers to pay their employees, but these payments are tax-exempt. These payments need to meet the eligibility requirements, and more information can be found in the HMRC Employment Income Manual.