Hundreds of schools are closed and travel has been disrupted after wintry conditions have brought heavy snow and ice across the UK.
The weather, which has been branded the ‘Beast from the East’ has caused chaos for commuters, with a wealth of trains and buses cancelled.
Scores of schools up and down the country have been shut, with 200 schools shut in Wales, as well as 131 closed in Kent and 62 in East Sussex.
With temperatures set to fall as low as minus 8, we provide you with a rundown of your rights as an employee should the weather cause your child’s school or your place of work to close.
What happens if I am unable to get into work due to the bad weather?
Unfortunately, this is something which employers can discipline you for. It is the responsibility of an employee to make it to and from work. This means that if you do not show up to work, your employer is well within their rights to treat your day off as an unexplained absence.
The only way you would be able to get around this is if your employer provided transport to and from work for you, i.e. an employee bus, and this service was cancelled because of the weather.
There are some employers who will allow their employees to take a snow day and use it as annual leave, and some who will allow employees to work from home.
It is important also to remember your rights as an employee, and you should understand that an employer should not be pressuring or forcing you to travel into work if you think that your safety would be compromised should you attempt to make the journey.
If you do have to go to work, there is no law which covers a minimum workplace temperature, however your employer is required to provide and maintain a safe working environment.
The Health and Safety Executive recommends that workplaces where the nature of work is fairly inactive, or deskbound, such as an office job, should keep a temperature of around 16 degrees.
For jobs which involve physical effort or manual labour, the Health and Safety Executive recommended minimum temperatures is 13 degrees.
As an employee, what rights do I have if my child’s school is closed because of the weather?
The law states that you are entitled to take ‘dependant leave’ to ensure that your child is being looked after in the case of an emergency. This means, essentially, that you are entitled to unpaid time off work should the weather prevent your child from being able to go to school.
Should there be an unexpected disruption to the normal care arrangements you have in place for your child, you are allowed to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off work to take care of them. Schools or nurseries being closed due to bad weather would constitute an emergency in this situation.
It should be noted that this is not meant to be taken as time off to be spent looking after the child, but should be spent making alternative arrangements for your child to be cared for.
Most employers are understanding of these circumstances, and will usually allow you to take holidays at very short notice, and if possible will allow you to work from home, or come in to make the time up at a later date.
What happens if my work is closed for the day due to bad weather? Will I still be paid?
In most scenarios, you will still be paid if your workplace is forced to close because of the snow. If you are able to work from home, employers are within their rights to ask you to work from home in this scenario.
There are, however, a couple of situations which would mean that your employed would not have to pay you if your workplace closes for bad weather.
One time you will not be paid is if it there are provisions written into your contract which allow you to have an unpaid lay-off.
Another situation would be if you are on a zero hours contract, your employers’ contractual right is to decline you work, even at short notice, meaning you would not be entitled to pay.
If bad weather is forecast a long time in advance, employers are able to ask employees to take a holiday for this time.
Who is responsible if I slip on ice at work?
Your employer is responsible for maintaining safe working conditions for you, meaning that if you have an accident at work which could have been avoided, then your employer could be at fault.
If I am on annual leave during a spell of bad weather, and my workplace is shut during this time, will I still need to use my annual leave for these days off?
This is dependent on the policy that your employer has in place, and whether those who have been told not to come in to work have still been asked to work from home while the workplace is shut.
In some cases, you may be able to claim back your holiday time. This means that if everyone else in your workplace has been given a day off, you may be entitled to reclaim your holiday time. If your colleagues have been expected to use this day to work from home, then it is unlikely that you will receive this time back as a holiday.
Those who work in workplaces with a good holiday policy will have these issues dealt with.
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