Wintery showers swept across the country last weekend with the festive season well underway – schools, airports and commuters have all fallen victim to the seasonal chill.
Laura Kearsley, Partner in our Employment Law team 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 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 absence as unauthorised. An exception to this would 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 attempt the journey if there are 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 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 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/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. A good holiday policy will deal with these sorts of issues.