Can’t get to work because of the snow?

Your Employer may Decide Not to Pay You, So what are your Employment Rights?

The winter weather forecast is not good. Snow has already arrived in certain parts of the country and forecasters are predicting it could be a harsh winter.

The chances are that at some point this winter you may be struggling to get to work, and many workers will simply not be able to make it in – even though it’s through no fault of their own.

So what are your employment rights if you are unable to make it to work? Are you still entitled to be paid, and could you even be disciplined?

We put the questions to our legal expert, Philip Landau

Do I have a right to be paid?

Some employers will have ‘bad weather’ policies so it is worth checking this in the first instance. A generous employer may provide for you to still be paid if bad weather genuinely stops you from making it into work, or there may be a collective agreement in place covering this position. In the absence of such a policy, you are at the whim of your employer as to whether your pay is docked if you do not turn up for work.

Can I suggest alternatives to my employer?

Yes. In fact the advisory conciliation service, ACAS has long recommended the following:

  • 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.

Employers are not obliged to agree to any of the above.

What if I can manage to get to work, but school closures prevent me from doing so due to child care issues?

Although you would have the right to unpaid leave if you had to arrange emergency childcare arrangements, there is no right to actually be paid in these circumstances. Your employer may still be prepared to pay you for your time off if you can work from home or you agree to make up the hours.

Can my employer force me to take a day off as holiday?

Yes. The general position is that your employer may require you to take annual leave on particular days by giving the appropriate notice. The law states that you must be given warning that is the equivalent of twice the length of the leave. Such notice should specify the day or days on which leave is required to be taken and such notice must be at least twice the period of leave it requires the worker to take.

For example, if your employer requires you to take a day’s leave, you must be given 2 days advanced notice. There are exceptions to where your employer has to give you notice, and this mainly applies where your holiday entitlement exceeds the statutory minimum of 28 days (including bank holidays).

Can my employer force me to take unpaid leave?

Your employer can force you to take the time as unpaid leave as long as this right is reserved in your contract of employment. If your employer went ahead without this contractual right, it would be considered an “unlawful deduction of wages”. It may be wise to try and reach agreement with your employer though, as opposed to using up your holiday entitlement.

Could I be disciplined?

This is possible if you do not inform your employer of your whereabouts or do not make a sufficient effort to get into work. For example, if all your colleagues have made it in and you have not, questions will undoubtedly be asked. As long as you do not take unreasonable advantage of the situation, this is unlikely to turn into a disciplinary matter.

What if my workplace is closed due to bad weather?

In these circumstances, you are entitled to be paid in full and your employer cannot require you to take the time as annual leave. In addition, your employer cannot require you to take the time as annual leave.

As can be seen, there is no single, standard approach. You should hope that your employers will understand the difficulty you have in genuinely dire weather situations. The general accepted guidance is that whether you are paid or not, you should not put yourself in danger by travelling in dangerous conditions.

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

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