Employer’s Duty of Care: Things to Keep in Mind during Extreme Cold Weather

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An employer’s duty of care becomes more apparent in the case of extreme weather. This is expected to happen in the coming weeks as we head into winter.

As temperatures plummet and winter takes hold, employers must be vigilant in upholding their duty of care to ensure the well-being and safety of their workforce. 

The phrase “employer’s duty of care” may sound bureaucratic, but it encompasses a crucial set of responsibilities that every employer should be well-versed in, particularly when faced with extreme cold weather conditions.

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Understanding Employer’s Duty of Care

The term “employer’s duty of care” refers to the legal obligation employers have to ensure their employees’ health, safety, and well-being. This duty extends beyond the usual office environment and includes remote work scenarios. 

According to the Workplace (Health and Safety Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers are required to maintain working conditions at a reasonable temperature, emphasising the importance of a comfortable and safe working environment.

Temperature Regulations and Health Responsibilities

While there is no specific law dictating the exact temperature at which it becomes too cold to work, employers must consider the well-being of their workforce. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests a minimum office temperature of 16°C, rising to 13°C for jobs involving rigorous physical activity. This is not just about legal compliance; it’s a manifestation of employers’ duty of care.

In outdoor working environments, employers must manage the risks associated with extreme temperatures. This includes providing adequate breaks during very hot or freezing weather, ensuring access to hot drinks, and supplying suitable clothing and personal protective equipment. 

The focus is not solely on compliance but on fulfilling health and safety responsibilities to protect employees from the adverse effects of extreme weather.

For more on health and safety at work, visit the Redmans Solicitors guide on your basic rights at work here.

Communication and Flexible Working

Central to an employer fulfilling their duty of care during extreme cold weather is effective communication. Employers should proactively engage with employees, making them aware of the measures in place to ensure their comfort and safety. 

This could involve relaxing dress codes, allowing extra breaks for hot or cold drinks, and providing additional heating or cooling equipment.

Flexible working arrangements play a pivotal role in meeting health and safety responsibilities. If employees face challenges commuting in extreme weather, employers can explore options such as working from home or making up time later. 

This not only aligns with the duty of care but also demonstrates a commitment to the well-being and work-life balance of the workforce.

School Closures and Consideration for Parents

Employers must extend their duty of care to employees who are parents, especially during extreme weather events leading to school closures. 

The legal minimum temperature for schools is set by the Education School Premises Regulations 1999, ensuring a comfortable learning environment for children. Employers should consider the challenges parents face when childcare arrangements fall through due to school closures.

In such instances, employees are entitled to dependant leave, albeit usually unpaid. Employers should understand the situation and encourage open communication with affected employees. This reflects not only legal compliance but also a compassionate approach to employees facing unforeseen childcare challenges.

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Safety First in Employer’s Duty of Care: Navigating Extreme Cold Weather

Employers must adopt a safety-first approach during extreme cold weather. This includes actively managing risks associated with adverse conditions. Adequate lighting, gritting icy areas, and ensuring that employees are not pressured to complete journeys in exceptionally difficult weather conditions are essential aspects of an employer’s duty of care.

Conclusion

In the face of extremely cold weather, employers’ duty of care comes to the forefront, outlining a set of responsibilities that go beyond mere legal compliance. It encapsulates a commitment to the health, safety, and well-being of employees. 

Employers must not view it as a bureaucratic requirement but as a moral and ethical imperative to create a workplace that prioritises the welfare of its workforce. 

Engaging in effective communication, implementing flexible working arrangements, and considering the challenges faced by parents during school closures are integral aspects of upholding this duty of care. 

As the temperature drops, employers have an opportunity to showcase their commitment to a safe, comfortable, and supportive working environment.

If you require advice or guidance on employment law matters, head to the Redmans website. To get in touch with our team of expert employment lawyers, click here

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