Shivering before winter: How cold can it be in the office?

A job with a government agency is seen by many as safe and comfortable.

Shivering before winter: How cold can it be in the office?

A job with a government agency is seen by many as safe and comfortable. At least with the latter it should be over soon. Because the Energy Saving Ordinance regulates the room temperature in the office down to 19 degrees. You can read here whether employees in non-public offices could also get cold.

Autumn is felt, even if it is only a few days away from the calendar. Meteorologically, on the other hand, we have almost survived the first three weeks. Unsurprisingly, however, it will be even cooler in the foreseeable future. In view of scarce and expensive energy, calls for savings in production, private households and offices in terms of heating and electricity consumption have recently increased. With the Energy Saving Ordinance, the room temperature in public buildings has been limited to 19 degrees since September 1st.

So it should be uncomfortable in German offices. Anyone who, as an employee of a non-public company, rubs their hands in glee could soon have to do the same to ward off the clammy feeling in their own fingers. Because a draft for an emergency plan by the European Commission provides that offices and commercial buildings should also be heated to a maximum of 19 degrees Celsius during the cold season.

But such a decision has not yet been made and will also depend to a large extent on the temperatures in the coming months, in addition to the actual energy consumption. Which means that the question of how warm it must be in the office can only be answered based on the current status.

And in principle, it is first of all to be established that a right to heat is not expressly regulated by law, as reported by the Techniker Krankenkasse. Nevertheless, according to the workplace ordinance and the associated workplace directive, the air temperatures in work rooms must be beneficial to health.

The latter specifies the requirements of the Ordinance on Workplaces. The temperature limits are graded accordingly and depend on the difficulty of the work, the working posture and the specific operating room:

This means that the employer must ensure that his employees do not have to freeze at work. If this is nevertheless the case - and this does not mean the subjective feeling of the individual, but rather a drop in temperature below the specified minimum values ​​- he is obliged to take countermeasures. These can be of various types: the employer can provide radiators or suitable clothing or set up additional warm-up times. The works council has a say as to whether the measures taken are appropriate.

However, employees affected by the chill cannot simply stop their work. At least not as long as the temperature at the workplace does not pose a health risk. However, employees must prove this risk themselves, which will not always be easy. Therefore, those affected should definitely contact the works council or a lawyer before they leave their frosty desk. Otherwise, a warning or dismissal may result. A cold free with full payment should therefore be the exception.

And one more thing: In working rooms, taking into account the specific conditions, there must be enough healthy air to breathe. Which means, among other things, ventilation. Should Corona become a bigger issue again, this should play a role, especially with down-regulated heating systems. But even with air conditioning systems, the employer must ensure that the employees are not permanently exposed to disruptive drafts.

(This article was first published on Monday, September 19, 2022.)

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