Thursday, 08 September 2022 10:03

Energy Crisis Strategies

Despite new Prime Minister, Liz Truss announcing a support plan to tackle the current energy price crisis in her first day of office, the coming months will remain a worrying and uncertain time for many thousands of households. Those who leapt at the opportunity to work from home following the Covid pandemic, may now head back to the workplace, lured in by the opportunity to switch off their heating and lighting at home to let their employer keep them warm during work hours.

Businesses will of course want to support their employees as much as possible during the looming crisis, many will find their own existence is threatened by equally spiralling, but uncapped, fuel bills. Business premises notoriously suffer high heating and lighting costs and we have already heard cries for help across a number of sectors.

A return of employees to the workplace would be welcomed by many employers under normal circumstances. However, the challenge of keeping the workplace heated during the colder months will be complicated by the fact that Covid is still lurking. Crowded workshops and offices with restricted ventilation might be a catalyst for a resurgence of Covid infections.

Notwithstanding, employers will be reminded of their duty of care to employees and should view any expenses incurred in keeping their staff healthy as investment in seeing a productive and valuable workforce. However, some compromise should not be seen as unreasonable.

We have grown used to living in affordably heated homes, yet it wasn’t so long ago that ice on the inside of windows was commonplace for many. These days, it’s a given that the office is heated in the winter and air-conditioned in the winter. Realistically, turning the heating down by a degree or two at work, is unlikely to cause so much discomfort that workers will refuse to work.

Just as in the summer, employers can relax dress codes at work in the winter too. Allowing the wearing of jeans perhaps and an extra layer and thick jumper could be a quick win. In harder to heat spaces such as workshops and warehouses, a clothing allowance for thermal base layers and gloves might work out considerably cheaper than running the heating on high all day. There might also be an economy in the business buying thermal garments in bulk and distributing them to staff.

Flexible working hours is a fairly common benefit for modern workers, however there may be a case for restricting this during the colder and darker months so that heating and lighting can be better controlled to save costs. Working overtime might be welcomed by staff who are struggling to meet their energy bills. However, this may need to balanced by the fact that it becomes uneconomical to pay overtime if the heating is running for just one or two people.

Where businesses have made a decision to enable and encourage working from home, a home heating subsidy could be an option whilst fuel prices remain so high. If an organisation is already saving rent and rates because their staff are now home workers, sharing the saving that the company is making on fuel seems a fair and reasonable thing to do.

If the company has enough liquidity, offering hardship loans to employees is also an option. These are not taxable on balances under £10,000 and you can make these interest free so that your employees do not suffer a double whammy if they need to borrow to meet their bills. As their wage payer, it’s easy for you to arrange recouping the loan through their pay when times are more affordable. You should arrange company loans formally of course and your accountant should be able to support you if you choose this option.

As the cost-of-living crisis bites, we must also be very conscious of our employees’ mental health. Many people will be under enormous stress as they struggle to make ends meet. Even if the Government does put a rescue package together, money will still be tight and the uncertainty of getting through the winter months will put a great strain on individuals’ wellbeing.

Our Mental Health First Aider course includes modules that teach delegates to spot the signs of mental health conditions and to signpost individuals to the most appropriate support solution.

For help and support with any of the issues raised here, or for any other Employment Law and HR Matters, we’re here to help on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

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