Snow weather warning: Can your boss force you to go to work? Your legal rights unveiled

BBC Weather: UK warned of snow as temperatures fall

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The Met Office has predicted a cold blast could hit the UK as early as next week, with rainfall potentially turning to snow in higher ground. However, snowfall and freezing temperatures not only make leaving the house undesirable, in some cases travelling during these conditions can be dangerous.

Despite this, many employers are now pushing workers back to office environments following the end of lockdown restrictions.

Furthermore, many people simply don’t have the option to work from home.

But, when freezing cold weather and heavy snowfall makes an appearance, can your employer legally force you to go to work?

According to Tina Chander, head of employment law at Wright Hassall, this is largely at your employer’s discretion and depends on the type of contract you have signed.

Unfortunately, in most cases, it seems you are not entitled to be paid if bad weather keeps you from fulfilling your working duties.

She said: “As a starting point, employees do not have a legal right to be paid if they cannot travel to work due to adverse weather conditions.

“Employees should check the terms of their contract of employment as there may be a contractual right to be paid in such circumstances.

“Alternatively, an employer may operate a non-contractual policy which entitles employees to pay in such circumstances.

“There should always be a policy in place which covers circumstances in which employees are unable to attend work due to adverse weather conditions.

“This way there is no confusion.”

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Can I take annual leave if winter weather keeps me from work?

Once again, this is at your employer’s discretion, with some companies enforcing a certain notice period for annual leave requests.

Ms Chander said: “If there is no contractual right to be paid, and no policy which provides for payment to be made in these circumstances, employees may wish to take annual leave to ensure that they are still paid.

“Similarly, provided that the employer gives the correct notice, they can require their staff to take annual leave.

“The required notice is double the length of time that they want employees to take as annual leave, so the travel disruption would need to be somewhat foreseeable.”

Can I take annual leave if winter weather keeps me from work?

Once again, this is at your employer’s discretion, with some companies enforcing a certain notice period for annual leave requests.

Ms Chander said: “If there is no contractual right to be paid, and no policy which provides for payment to be made in these circumstances, employees may wish to take annual leave to ensure that they are still paid.

“Similarly, provided that the employer gives the correct notice, they can require their staff to take annual leave.

“The required notice is double the length of time that they want employees to take as annual leave, so the travel disruption would need to be somewhat foreseeable.”

Can I take unpaid leave if winter weather keeps me from work?

In the event you wake up to a blanket of snow too dangerous to drive in, your employer may allow you to agree to take a day off work.

However, it could mean sacrificing your wages for that day.

Ms Chander recommends speaking to your employer and negotiating unpaid leave if it feels like the most beneficial option.

She added: “The employer could agree with the employee that they will not be required to work, but will be required to ‘make up’ the hours that have not been worked within a specified timeframe.”

Can I take unpaid leave if winter weather keeps me from work?

In the event you wake up to a blanket of snow too dangerous to drive in, your employer may allow you to agree to take a day off work.

However, it could mean sacrificing your wages for that day.

Ms Chander recommends speaking to your employer and negotiating unpaid leave if it feels like the most beneficial option.

She added: “The employer could agree with the employee that they will not be required to work, but will be required to ‘make up’ the hours that have not been worked within a specified timeframe.”

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Can I work from home during bad winter weather?

Most employers are being encouraged to incorporate more flexibility into their working options, particularly since the pandemic.

As Ms Chander points out, allowing employees to work from home – if it is possible – can reduce the risk of accidents and stress.

She said: “If the employer operates a working from home policy, sometimes referred to as a ‘hybrid working policy’, they may choose to permit their employees to work from home on days where travel is restricted or may pose a health and safety risk to their workforce so that productivity is not reduced.

“Hybrid working can also help to create a more relaxed working environment and provide employees with the opportunity to work from home in times like this.

“It can prevent accidents, safety-related incidents and unnecessary stress for workers.”

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