The Beast from the East is here – bringing with it Siberian temperatures and the threat of widespread snow.
That’s likely to mean lots of travel disruption and schools closing across the region, meaning extra childcare headaches for thousands of workers.
So what do you do if your staff cannot make it into work because of the weather – or your boss insists that you drive into work on treacherous roads? Here are the answers to a few of the most commonly-asked questions about work and the weather.
I can’t get to work because of the snow. Will I lose a day’s pay?
Not necessarily. You might be able to come to an arrangement with your boss to work from home or make up the time at a later date, but most of the time you do not have an automatic right to be paid if you cannot get to work.
The Government’s website Gov.uk says that if there is travel disruption, employers can ask staff to take paid holiday (annual leave) if they give the correct notice.
This must be at least double the length of time they want employees to take in annual leave. So, for one day’s annual leave it would be two days’ notice.
The employment contract may set down a different notice period and if so, this will usually apply.
My children’s school is closed and I cannot come to work because I have to look after them. Will I still get paid?
You have no automatic right to pay in these circumstances – though you might again be able to come to an agreement with your employer about making up the lost time or working from home.
But you do have the right in law to a reasonable amount of unpaid leave to look after children or other dependents in an emergency – which is likely to include a school being shut at short notice. Talk to your boss about what a ‘reasonable time’ might be and keep them informed of the situation.
My employer has closed my workplace because of the weather. Will I still get paid in this situation?
Yes. As gov.uk says, if the workplace is closed because of disruption and the employee doesn’t usually work from home, employers can’t usually deduct pay.
But if it is possible for you to work from home – or another office – the company can ask you to do so, so prepare to be flexible.
My boss is insisting I drive into work even though the roads are covered in snow. Are they allowed to do this?
No. Your company has a duty of care in this situation and cannot demand that you take unnecessary risks to get into work. But they do not need to pay you if you cannot get to work either.
My boss is insisting I work from home because I cannot get into work. Do I have to agree?
In short, yes, if it’s practicable. If there is work you can carry out from home and you are able to do so, it is reasonable of the boss to ask you if you haven’t been able to get to the office.
I run a small company and have not had the time to put a policy in place for ‘snow days’. Should I consider drawing one up?
Absolutely. The conciliation service ACAS says it is vital for all employers to have clear guidelines in place about what might happen in the event of bad weather. Your employees need to know what is expected from them in terms of getting to work.
All of my staff have made it into work except for one employee who is a consistent problem. Can I take action against them?
Any action you consider must be carried out according to proper and fair procedure. As ACAS says: “This will help maintain good, fair and consistent employment relations and help prevent complaints to employment tribunals.”