It’s snowing! – What are my legal rights as a worker?


by Anna Crayton, Solicitor in Employment and Dispute Resolution Team

As the heavy snow fall continues causing major disruption to travel and hundreds of schools up and down the county remain closed, many commuters are finding themselves stranded at home without access to the rail network or roads.

If you find yourself unable to get to work because of the Arctic conditions, before you run outside and start making snow angels, get clued up on your employee rights so you know where you stand!

If I can’t get to work do I still get paid?

Essentially, if it is your responsibility to get to and from work (i.e. your employer does not provide your travel), and you do not make it in, an employer is entitled to regard your absence as unauthorised and they are not legally obliged to pay you.

However, you may find that your employer has a policy in place and/or there is a clause in your employment contract that says that your employer will pay you if you cannot get to work due to circumstances beyond your control.

Furthermore an employer may make discretionary arrangements with you in the circumstances, for example, they may permit you to work from home if you are unable to travel to your normal workplace.

What if my workplace closes because of the weather?

In this situation, you are entitled to be paid. Unless there is sufficient notice provided of the bad weather, your employer cannot require you to take the time as holiday.

They can request you work from home, if you are able to of course. However, if you are engage on a zero-hours contract, or your employer has a contractual right to decline to offer you work at short notice, they may have the right to withhold your pay.

What if my child’s school is shut due to the snow?

You have the right to take ‘dependent leave’ to make sure your child is looked after in an emergency. A school closing at short notice because of severe weather is considered an official emergency by the government.

In the absence of a workplace policy providing for paid dependent leave, your employer could enforce this as unpaid time off work as this is their prerogative. However, they may take a more flexible approach and afford you full pay regardless of your absence.

We would suggest, if you can, to liaise with your employer at your earliest convenience to explain the situation regarding the school closure and give them notice of your likely length of absence.

What is the minimum temperature that you’re legally able to work in?

Officially there is no minimum workplace temperature but employers are required to maintain a safe working environment and provide a ‘reasonable temperature’. Of course what is “reasonable” differs from one person to the next!

The Health and Safety Executive recommends a minimum temperature for offices where the nature of work is fairly inactive and deskbound of 16C. If the work requires physical effort, the minimum recommended temperature falls to 13C.

ACAS says, if temperatures are lower than these recommendations or create an unsafe working environment, then you should be allowed to wear additional and warmer clothing, bring in extra heating options such as portable heaters and take extra breaks to make hot drinks.

Help and advice

If you have any questions or require guidance or advice regarding your employment rights please contact Anna Crayton, a solicitor in our Employment Law Department:

T: 020 7408 8888                                  

E: [email protected]