When is it too cold to go to work? It's a question we've all asked ourselves as we're de-icing the car or wrapping up in layers ready to get to work.

Now, there's some advice issued for those of us wondering how cold it really has to get before we don't have to work.

And it's not good news for those hoping for a cheeky day off.

Dawn Brown, HR expert at MHR says: "Working in a cold environment can cause employees to become tired as they are using up extra energy in order to keep warm and cause them to lose concentration and focus which can affect their decision making."

Is there a minimum or maximum temperature?

Not really. But employers are legally obliged to provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace, under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

In its Approved Code of Practice, it suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16C.

If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13C.

What happens if it's below 13C?

If the temperature falls below this level, employers should act and take the relevant steps to help bring the temperature in the office or workplace back up to that temperature, for instance by providing additional heating.

“The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees, and take action where necessary and where reasonably practicable. It highlights that the temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should address to meet their legal obligations", Dawn Brown adds.

What else should employers do?

Employers are advised to

  • Give employees regular breaks
  • Provide plenty of opportunities to drink a hot drink
  • Take measures to reduce exposure to the cold and draughts
  • Employers could consider introducing flexible working hours or new rotas to help reduce the effects of a cold snap

What can I do?

If you and your colleagues are really struggling, raise the issue with your manager and ask if you can make up the time another day or take some time off as annual leave.

But ultimately it’s your manager’s decision whether your specific environment is warm enough to work or not.