Are you ready for winter…? What are your rights if you are absent from work due to adverse weather conditions?


David Ward

According to current news reports severe weather is on its way this winter. If and when it hits, it can cause a number of issues for employers and their employees regarding pay, leave, health and safety and employment rights. British weather can range from brutal winds and flash floods to black ice and relentless snow. Consequentially many employees may not be able to make it into work due to travel disruption. St Jude’s storm gave thousands of employees the day off work after causing power cuts, fallen trees and the cancellation of train services both to and from London.

Will I get paid?

The main question that anyone will have on their mind if they can’t get into work is “Will I get paid?” The answer is inconclusive at best as this largely depends on the employer’s stance. Employees have no automatic right to be paid if unable to get to work because of bad weather. However, employers may have contractual arrangements in place for this, for example, some organisations offer discretionary payments for travel disruption or have their own informal arrangements for this purpose. Such arrangements are normally contained employment contracts or staff handbooks.

The office is closed due to adverse weather conditions

In some cases, depending on the severity of weather conditions or the number of stranded employees, it may not be economical or even safe for a workplace to remain open. If an employer decides to close a workplace, it may be able to send employees to another office or ask them to work from home. In any case, any employees with contractually guaranteed hours or salaries will still have to be paid if they are ready and willing to work, unless the employer can rely on contractual terms such as a lay-off clause. If your employer does withhold your pay, you could bring a claim for unauthorised deduction from wages. However, if your employer has inserted a ‘temporary layoff’ clause in your contract of employment, this may allow them to temporarily lay off employees without pay (other than statutory guarantee pay) and it may be permissible for your employer to close the business at short notice.

Employee and Employer obligations

As an Employee: Your Employer:
you are obliged to attend work unless you are sick or on leave and this means that the onus is on you to get to work even in extreme weather conditions. should consider whether you could work from home until the weather improves – taking   annual leave and making time up later should also be considered.
you should not feel pressurised to risk your safety to get to work. cannot usually withhold pay if they decide to temporarily close the business at short notice because of the weather and if there is no work available as a   result.
you have no general legal right to be paid if you do not go into work (unless your contract allows for you to be paid when you cannot get into work due to bad weather). cannot force you to take a day’s holiday without your consent or without giving proper notice as set out in the Working Time Regulations – unless your   contract contains an express right for your employer to direct when holiday is taken.
you should check if your employer has a “bad weather” policy which covers what is expected of you in adverse weather.

Plan of action

  • Plan ahead

All public transport may be operating reduced timetables or be running earlier or later than normal. Car and bicycle travel may be delayed by road closures and slower driving. Think about what arrangements you have in place if your child cannot get to school, your normal childcare provider is unavailable or if your child’s school is closed.

  • Make contact

Make sure you know how to get in touch with your employer if you are unable to get into work and that you have a means of communicating with them if you are going to be delayed.

  • Mitigate your losses

If you are affected by the weather, is there some way you can work around this or keep the disruption to a minimum? Think about if you have the option to work from home, alter your hours or if there is anything else you could discuss with your employer to help the situation.

  • Keep up to date

Consider how your employer can deal with your workload in your absence. Keep your files and papers in order and up to date so that another member of staff can pick them up if you can’t get in.

David Ward
Blacks Solicitors LLP
0113 227 9262


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