12 December 2017
Workers’ rights in wintry weather
Snow, ice and sleet are sweeping across Britain, with some areas seeing 28cm of snow already.
The Met Office is advising that temperatures are set to plummet even further, making it difficult to get to work. But that doesn't mean employees get the day off and this is what the law says about working in wintry weather.
Unless it is written in an employment contract or employee's handbook, companies are not required to pay staff if they cannot get to work because of the snow or poor weather conditions.
However, if either of these documents does have a provision, then employers are obligated to honour these terms.
If a company must close because of the weather, and workers do not usually work from home, then typically the company should not be deducting any pay.
Can staff be forced to come to work?
If a member of staff deems their journey to work to be unsafe, they do not have to come in. However, unless it is prescribed they will get paid for days they don't work due to poor conditions, they will have to take this as an unpaid day or as annual leave.
However, employers cannot tell employees when to take paid holidays unless they have provided twice as much notice as the leave requirement. For instance, if they are required to take one day's annual leave, a company should give staff at least two days' notice.
If the office is too cold, can staff go home?
While there are no official laws that govern minimum and maximum temperatures in the workplace, guidance by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states staff should work in "reasonable" temperatures. The HSE's Approved Code of Practice states this should be a minimum of 16°C, or minimum of 13°C if the job role involves rigorous physical effort.
If schools are closed, can employees take time off?
Workers are entitled to take dependant leave if they have no other options to cover childcare. While employers are not required to pay workers who take time off to care for dependants, they cannot be disciplined or sacked.
Can you ask staff to work flexibly?
While employers can ask staff to work from home, from another location or make up time at a later date, unless working from home is a term stipulated in an employment contract or employee handbook, then companies cannot insist their staff do this.