It's snowing: Can I take a day off work?

Published by Nathalie Bonney on 17 December 2010.
Last updated on 17 December 2010

help in snow

Snowy weather conditions has once again brought the country to its knees with treacherous road links, suspended rail services and closed schools. What are your rights though, if you cannot get into work? Moneywise looks at some of the common dilemmas workers – and employers face and what the law says in response.

Q: The snow has made my journey into work a real trial and I’ve told my boss I cannot make it in. Will I get in trouble?

If travel disruption is preventing you from getting into work you should talk to your employer to see how the land lies. Your employer can enforce you to take unpaid leave, take off holiday days or work flexible hours. Provided you’ve shown that you’ve made the effort to get into work, your boss should be sympathetic towards your situation.

It’s also worth checking your employment contract or staff handbook to see if there is anything on your rights around this issue or if you feel that your employer is acting unfairly.

Q: My employer is forcing me to take holiday off because I cannot get into work, is this allowed?

Employers have to give staff a minimum notice period before they can enforce you to take holiday leave. So for example, if you need to take a day’s leave because of the weather conditions, they must give you two day’s notice of this.

Q: I’m being forced to take unpaid leave because of the snow, is this fair?

If you cannot travel into work, your employer could suggest that you take a day of unpaid leave. If this isn’t included in your employment contract however, you cannot be forced to take unpaid leave. It’s best to negotiate with your boss the best options – although annoying to lose a day’s pay you may prefer this to taking compulsory holiday.

Q: My boss wants me to work from home, which would be fine but I don’t have an internet connection so am limited with what I can do. How can I rectify this?

Working from home is an increasingly popular option and in most cases technology means this is possible. If you don’t have all the facilities you need at home speak to your employer and establish what you can do at home and then offer to make up the rest of the hours at another date.

However, if you don’t currently work flexible hours under your contract, your boss cannot force you to do so. On the other hand you have to weigh up if you’d prefer to do this rather than have to take off extra holiday or unpaid leave.

Q: The school my children go to has closed because of cold weather and I have no childcare arrangements, can my employer force me to take the time off as holiday?

You have no reason to feel guilty or panic, under the employment rights act 1996, an employee is entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off work because of an unexpected disruption to childcare arrangements.

Q: My workplace has closed because of the bad weather, what does that mean for me?

Good news, if you cannot get into the office and have no work to do at home then your employer cannot dock your pay or force you to take annual leave. Time for a snowball fight…

Q: Despite struggling into work in snowy conditions and with disruptions to my journey, half of my colleagues haven’t made the same effort. Can I get anything in recognition of my efforts?

Unfortunately, you are not entitled to any kind of reward – be it monetary or extra holiday days; however, it’s unlikely to go unnoticed by your boss.

And finally something for employers to think about…

Local authorities may well be warning people to avoid leaving their homes or make journeys unless absolutely necessary. You have a care of duty to your employees and could be liable if you have pressurised workers to come in when conditions are dangerous or their health is at risk.

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