These are your legal rights around going to work in snow and icy conditions

These are your legal rights around going to work in snow and icy conditions
Do you have to go into work during snowy weather? We asked a legal expert (Photo: Shutterstock)

Snow and blizzards are expected to hit parts of the UK this weekend.

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning alerting people to expect delays on the roads and possible cancellations to rail and air travel.

Here, Laura Kearsley (partner and solicitor in the employment team at East Midlands-based law firm Nelsons), explains what the law says on employee rights during ice and snow.

My child’s school is closed – can I take the day off work?

You are entitled to take a reasonable amount of emergency unpaid time off work to take care of your kids if there is unexpected disruption in their normal care arrangements – the closure of a nursery or school would qualify as an emergency. However, this is not time off to look after the child, but to make alternative arrangements for their care instead.

Many employers are more flexible, though, in these circumstances and will allow employees to take holiday at short notice or, if appropriate, to work from home or make the time up.

I can’t get into work because of the bad weather. Does my employer have to pay me?

Put simply, no they do not. It is generally an employee’s responsibility to get to and from work and so if this is not possible, the employer is entitled to regard such absence as unauthorised. An exception to this might be where the employer provides transport (e.g. a bus service) and this is cancelled.

Once again, some employers may consider allowing employees to request the time off as annual leave or to work from home. However, it is important to remember your employer should not force or pressure you to unnecessarily attempt the journey if there are legitimate safety reasons why you should not travel.

My workplace has closed for the day because of the weather. Does my employer have to pay me?

Unless your contract has a provision allowing for unpaid lay-off, your boss will still have to pay you if your workplace is closed because of the snow. This also cannot be marked down as a holiday. However, they can request you work from home if you are able to.

If you are able to work from home, your employer may ask you to do so during periods of snowy weather (Photo: Shutterstock)
If you are able to work from home, your employer may ask you to do so during periods of snowy weather (Photo: Shutterstock)

If you are on a zero hours contract or your employer has a contractual right to decline to offer you work at short notice, they may not have to pay you. Also, if there is advance notice of bad weather, the employer could give prior notice to require employees to take their holiday.

Is my employer liable if I slip on snow or ice at work?

Employers are required to maintain safe working conditions for employees so they may be liable if there is an accident at work which could have been avoided.

Is there a minimum workplace temperature that should be met?

No, there is not. However, employers are required to maintain a safe working environment.

The Health and Safety Executive provides guidance and recommends a minimum temperature of 16C for workplaces where the nature of work is fairly inactive or deskbound, such as offices. If the work requires physical effort, the minimum recommended temperature is 13C.

If I’m on annual leave and my employer shuts my workplace for the day, do I still have to use my annual leave for that time, even though the business is shut?

This depends on your employer’s policy and whether employees are still expected to work while the business is shut. You may be able to “claim your holiday back” if everyone else is being given a day off, but if other colleagues are expected to work from home or continue to attend appointments, then it is less likely.

For more information on employee rights, you can visit nelsonslaw.co.uk/employee-rights or call 0800 024 1976