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Snow Joke: Can’t get to work? Know your rights

Can’t get to work or you need to look after your kids due to school closures? What is the right for workers to still be paid? Philip Landau, Employment Law Solicitor and Partner of London law firm Landau Zeffertt Weir explains:

Philip LandauWith many employees struggling to get to work in the snow and ice, it is worth reflecting on your rights to be paid if you simply cannot get to work through no fault of your own.  Some employers will have “bad weather” policies so it is worth checking this in the first instance. Such policy may provide for you to still be paid if bad weather genuinely stops you from making it into work.

In the absence of such a policy, you are at the whim of your employer as to whether your pay is docked for non attendance. Unfortunately, many employers are being mean spirited and either refusing to pay staff for not getting into work or insisting that this time comes off their annual leave. This is despite guidance from the TUC who  has previously said that:

‘‘Scrooge bosses who dock pay and take away holiday are needlessly adding to their business woes by creating resentment amongst staff. Workers who have been prevented from getting to work despite their best efforts should not have to foot the bill for the bad weather conditions.”

The TUC cannot force employers to be charitable though, so how should you approach your employer if they fall into the “mean spirited camp”. Well you could offer to make up lost hours by working additional unpaid overtime or different shift patterns. You could also offer to work from home which is especially feasible where you are able to log into computer systems remotely or where you work involves a lot of telephone use. If there is a faster direct route to work which is more expensive than usual, you could invite your employer to meet this additional cost if they insist you should be there. There is unfortunately no one stock approach and you should hope that your employers will appreciate the genuine difficulty you have in the dire conditions. After all, your line managers are likely to be facing the same difficulties themselves in getting to work.

What if you could manage to get to work, but school closures prevent you from doing so due to child care issues? Again, there is no right to be paid in these circumstances as the situation is different from the reasonable paid time off you would otherwise be entitled to if you are caring for a child who is ill. You would be expected to make arrangements for the children in these circumstances – again unless you have a generous employer who is still prepared to pay you for your time off.

Employers should reflect on the fact that if they are mean spirited in these times this could sow resentment amongst their staff which no employer really wants. Employers who would not normally pay for staff who failed to turn up due to bad weather could offer to pay their staff for a limited time only, say for the first 1-2 days. As least this would show some goodwill on their part.

The general accepted guidance is that whether you are paid or not, you should not put yourself in danger by travelling in dangerous conditions. Thankfully, the bad weather that grounds the country to a halt is few and far between.

If you do face disciplinary action because of missing work find out what you should do in our follow up article.

Jobsite have partnered with specialist employment law solicitor Philip Landau, to bring you expert advice on your rights in all key areas of your working life. As a Jobsite user you are also entitled to receive a free initial consultation on all employment law issues from Philip.

Philip can help with a number of legal problems; perhaps you feel your employer isn’t following their legal responsibilities, you believe you have been dismissed unfairly or you are unsure about clauses in your contract. Once he knows your specific situation he can let you know what your rights are and what action you can take.

To get in touch with Philip, click the link below and he will contact you to discuss your situation in more detail.

Philip Landau is a solicitor and partner, specialising in employment law, in the London legal firm Landau Zeffertt Weir.

Click here to here to contact Philip


The information and any commentary on the law on this web site is provided free of charge for information purposes only. Every reasonable effort is made to make the information and commentary accurate and up to date, but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying upon it, is assumed by either Jobsite or Landau Zeffertt Weir. The information and commentary does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice from a solicitor about your case or matter and not to rely on the information or comments on this site.

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  • Cheryl

    Although it’s true to say that weather like this doesn’t happen very often I think it’s a really good idea for companies to have clear, written policies about adverse weather as then everyone knows where they stand.

    The CIPD are reminding companies that their workers health & safety needs to be a key priority:

    Many companies also have contingency plans in place for events like this so that everything is mapped out and business can run with minimum disruption. Some things may happen with little warning e.g. fire damaging your office but we normally have at least a little warning about weather so it makes sense to do as much forward planning as possible.

    Saw this article today which might help some businesses with this sort of planning:

  • Cheryl

    A useful article for businesses on how they should approach staff absence in bad weather:

  • daniel daly

    I work for six hours per week for one of my employers spread over five days = 1.somethin hours per day
    I returned to work on friday which was the easiest and safest possible day to travel in my area
    my employer is insisting I should have walked the 21/2 miles to work or have taken piblic transport
    I pointed out that
    A,It would have been too dangerous to walk
    B, that it would cost more for bus fare than i would earn
    C ,that I was prepared to make the hours up ,I worked three hours on friday ,which makes the hours upto 4hrs last week
    my employer states that I cant do this and that she is prepared to meet the hours pay on tuesday but will dock me wed thurs despite me working three hours thursday
    my other employer was sympathetic where i work sixteen hours and despite missing the days above isnt that bothered about it
    i feel my employer in the first instance is being totally unreasonable
    i usually travel to work by car
    please let me know your opinions asap
    dan daly

  • Jake

    Hi Daniel,
    I’d say that although they are within their legal rights your employer is being completely unreasonable. If you’ve offered to make up the hours then I dont see how they can complain. In these unusual circumstances employers need to understand they need to be flexible – I bet they would have been the first to deny ordering you in if you’d slipped and broken something.
    I know that not everyone could afford this luxury, but I’d seriously consider leaving the job if they treated me so badly.

  • Aaron Rogers

    I am contracted in for 15 hours a week at my current job, which i work there part time, and have been doing so the past year and two months. On account of the recent snowfall i have been unable to get into work due to the conditions being dangerous and the bus routes not running.

    However my employer insists that i take a Taxi into work (£25+ each way) So £50+ to travel into work. I earn 5.90 per hour, so such a trip would cost me more to get into work then i would make out of it. My employer refuses to subsidise even part of the cost to get into work, as i wouldn’t mind paying £25 for the days travel.

    During tommorow which i hopefully will get into work on account of friends and family, i am faceing what is likely to be a diciplinary procedure for not comeing into work when the general advice is to not travel if it is too dangerous / Inaccessable.

    A second problem is that i am being given overtime hours without warning, and am seemingly not allowed to appeal against this, although from the terms of my work contract it stipulates i can choose whether to take overtime or not. But to continue, with these overtime hours being missed due to the bad weather, this seems to fuel my employers insistence to continue the procedures.

    A speedy reply would allways be appreciated, as i am unsure of what to say going into work tommorow when i am put in this diciplinary. Thanks

  • Darryl

    I am a Manager at a major Distribution Centre – and we decided to pay the 60 ish colleagues that could not get into work. The gesture has created more resentment from the 260 colleagues who braved the cold – who have demanded to know what the company is doing as a goodwill gesture for them making the extra effort to get into work. It seems you are damned if you do, and damned if you dont…..!

  • carl williamson

    hi ive been out ov work now since 21 ov december, im on the books + had my holidays. ive turned in to work so i was exspecting some kind ov pay. my gaffer has turned round to me + said we can pay u 21.50p a day thats coming from the guverment, but we can only have 5 days out ov 3 months while being off i want to know if thats right + if the company has to pay us anything off their own backs with me being on the a scaffolder on the books.

  • nicky

    i find it ridiciculous what a fuss is made over the weather! other countries have the same problem, but schools don’t close and people turn up to work – on time! it’s not like the weather is a surprise – it’s been like this for a month! my son’s school is closed for the third this month, just because people don’t want to walk that half a mile to school and their 4 by 4s get stuck in the parking bay (the roads are clear). it’s a joke…

  • TG

    A suggestion for Darryl in the distribution centre. What a dedicated team you have there! For the 260 who braved the cold and treacherous conditions, could you give them an extra day off in lieu later in the year? This will -hopefully- give them something to look forward to and inspire them to keep coming in.

  • MD

    I have walked 3.5 miles to the train station today and back again because the trains were not running (even though it says they were online before leaving the house). I informed by Boss what I was doing (the same as last week, when she ok’d it for me to work from home) and she says I now have the take the day off as leave. Where do I stand having made a 7 mile round trip (3 hours) which was treacherous, only for her to say it is now my ‘holiday’ day!? I’m furious because when I take a days holiday – i have to give them at least 30 days notice! How is this fair?

  • Reetu

    Hi I work in a school,I am a single parent i have a daughter who is 5, her school was closed.I rang my work (girls grammar school) to say i have problems with my daughters school-i was told by the headteacher to bring my daughter to work with me!!! As far as im aware my daughter is not in my contract she is my responsiibility & is she covered by health & safety to be there and shouldn’t atleast a risk assessment be done before she gets there??? I was told by my boss the is covered as she is like any other visitor who attends school and she is the boss she makes the rules!!!!-i dont agree.can you please tell me were i stand, i did take my daughter to work once last week but will never do it again.Thanks.

  • Jane P

    Sorry Reetu, but I think your boss was being very reasonable.
    It might be different if you don’t work in a school, but you do and they are probably set up to be one of the best places to take children

  • Philip Landau

    It is unfortunate to hear about employers who are being unreasonable in a situation in which very few have control over.

    Whilst all employers should not be tarnished with the same brush (see Darryl for example), I have seen enough cases recently to know that there are many employers who have let the side down.

    The employer in these circumstances will usually always have the upper hand- at least in legal terms. In the absence of a bad weather policy, they are entitled to deduct salary for your non- attendance or insist that you take any days absence as part of your holiday. They can also call you into disciplinary proceedings.

    Although you would have the right to lodge a grievance for any draconian action, and/or appeal the disciplinary decision, many employees will I imagine be reluctant to make too many waves in the present financial climate- which is as bad as the weather.

    Thankfully, the disruptions we have seen over the past few weeks are few and far between.

  • NW

    “Times are difficult” as my employers keep reminding me at every opportunity. In reality they will take every given chance to save money and make money and they don’t care who they tread on to do it.

    It’s cut throat business all the way with no room for sentiment and although a bit of good will often goes a long way they believe they have the upper hand and good will isn’t required.

    I was unable make it in for one day due to the snow so I’ve had to take it as annual leave.

    I suppose business doesn’t run on goodwill. Because of the recession and staff members leaving and not being replaced I’ve been asked to work unpaid overtime in 12 hour shifts because they’re “desparate for cover” and “we all need to pitch in during these difficult times” etc etc. This would take me over 48 hours in a week or consecutive shifts. Goodwill or lack of it works in both directions and the answer will have to be no.

    Sorry but you can’t have it both ways!! I look after those who look after me. How about a bit of goodwill all round and make the hard times less difficult?

  • Richard Peter Lowthorpe

    I was working in the snow all day outside in yorkshire all my work buddies had wet soggy feet and hands but not once was we given the chance to get warm or dry whilest working from 7:45 – 4:45 haveing our feet in snow all day our boss says take it or leave it you know were the job centre is…………….

  • Paddymcmillen


  • Mlacey

    employers should get used to the idea that winters are getting colder and worse conditions will be coming so to have no contingancy plans in place is bad practice in my eyes, all companies and health and saftey policies and there is no employer in the country that would put up with a wet floor never mind snow and ice on a floor but yet they expect people to walk/ drive in these conditions
    please dont get me wrong there are some people out there who will see a snow flake and say that they can not get in but its which is just daft i got snowed in for 3 days last week and where my boss lives they wasnt a flake so all i did with my camera phone was take a pic to prove the conditions and low and behold he got snowed in a day or so later as well
    employers have to arrange plans for this and these have to be gone through in induction stages of employment so you know where you stand from the begining
    would it really be that difficult and cost that much to arrange this i dont think so

  • Stuart

    I had a similar response from my team a couple of years ago. Our site was at the top of a hill, and inaccessible by car due to snow and ice on the surrounding roads. Half of the team usually drove to work, so I asked them to stay at home on full pay. The other half all walked to work, so I asked them to come in and explained that they would get extra days off in lieu once the snow had cleared. I made it clear to everyone that this was not the usual company policy (which was for everyone to come in or take it as unpaid leave), but something I had put in place just for my team.

    Most of the team appreciated the gesture, although one individual who walked to work believed they were being discriminated against because they did not drive so they were unable to play in the snow with their daughter!

  • del

    my arguement is when you loose a day because of snow that work still gets done . i work for a vending company and we made up the lost time by working harder and longer to get the work done . in this case you should be paid .the company has not lost any money by the snow. yours faithfully del

    • Paul Bassett

      your company is paying you for your time
      So I disagree with you The company has still lost 8 hours of your time unless you worked longer in the preceeding weeks to make up the time.
      afterall how would you feel if Shops Bus & Train Gas or Electricity Companies doubled their prices for the days it snowed. due to increased staffing

  • Suzuki750kettle



  • guyGuyhilton

    if the company stands the men down through the weather do they have 2 pay them even if there off 4 a week

  • Lorixosays

    i live in england, i often finish work late. latest being 10.30pm. that is what time i stop being paid. there for if i stop being paid at 10.30 can i walk out of the job? and go home. and can they give me a disciplinary for doing so? also we dont get paid to attend meetings if this legal?

  • Svs0393

    If all roads and rail links are making it impossible for anyone to get to work, will the employees as ell as the Managers get paid!!


    If all road and rail links make it impossible for anyone to get to work, will the employees as well as the Managers get paid??

  • Lisa Dodd

    i have to say it is NOT the employers fault either if it snows.. employers pay a lot out over and above an employees wage, IE. more NI etc.. so why should they foot the bill for snow?, unless of course, they caused it… No, before you think I am, I’m not an employer, just trying to get to grips with this claim society, that if anyone is inconvenienced for whatever reason, someone else has to pay them for it. if work can be done at home, great stuff, we should get paid, but if we don’t or can’t work, what rights do we have to be paid for doing nothing?. Productivity stops, which is NOT good for the employer either….. things happen in life, to me included.. it is sometimes not anyone’s fault… We need to get a grip.

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