Heavy snow is expected to fall across the country this week so prepare for travel disruptions and school closures all round.
Thanks to the snowy blast, dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’, temperatures are set to drop significantly, meaning it’s going to get VERY cold.
This means there’s a high chance that schools and offices across the country will be forced to close if temperatures in the building drop or the area is deemed unsafe.
So far, many UK schools don’t appear to be affected, but as the day progresses, headteachers will be monitoring conditions to decide on whether to close.
They usually make the decision as early as possible but sometimes it can be left up until the last minute, leaving parents unable to work.
We’ve put together a helpful guide so you know your rights should you find yourself unable to get to work this week.
What are my rights as an employee during ice and snow?
According to the law, you have the right to take ‘dependent leave’ to make sure your child is looked after in an emergency. This is essentially unpaid time off work.
Laura Kearsley, a specialist employment solicitor at Nelsons Solicitors, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘You are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to take care of your kids if there is unexpected disruption in their normal care arrangements – the closure of a nursery or school would qualify as an emergency.
‘However, this is not time off to look after the child, but to make alternative arrangements for their care instead.
‘Many employers are more flexible though in these circumstances and will allow employees to take holiday at short notice or, if appropriate, to work from home or make the time up.’
I can’t get into work because of the bad weather. Does my employer have to pay me?
Essentially no. It’s usually your responsibility to get to and from work so if you don’t show up, an employer is entitled to regard absence as unauthorised.
An exception to this would be where the employer provides transport (e.g. a bus service) and this is cancelled, Laura explains.
Some employers may consider allowing employees to request the time off as annual leave or to work from home.
Laura adds though: ‘It is important to remember your employer should not force or pressure you to attempt the journey if there are safety reasons why you should not travel.’
My workplace has closed for the day because of the weather. Do I still get paid?
If your workplace is closed because of the snow, your boss will still have to pay you – unless your contract has a provision allowing for unpaid lay-off.
They can, of course, request you work from home if you are able to.
If you are on a zero hours contract though, or your employer has a contractual right to decline to offer you work at short notice, they may not have to pay you.
Also, if there is advance notice of bad weather, the employer could give notice to require employees to take their holiday.
Is my employer liable if I slip on snow or ice at work?
Your employer is required to maintain safe working conditions for employees so they may be liable if there is an accident at work which could have been avoided.
Is there a minimum workplace temperature that should be met?
There is no minimum workplace temperature but employers are required to maintain a safe working environment.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, the recommended minimum temperature for workplaces where the nature of work is fairly inactive/deskbound, such as offices, is 16C.
If the work requires physical effort, the minimum recommended temperature is 13C.
If I’m on annual leave and my employer shuts my workplace for the day, do I still have to use my annual leave for that time?
This depends on your employer’s policy and whether employees are still expected to work while the business is shut, Laura says.
You may be able to ‘claim your holiday back’ if everyone else is being given a day off, but if other colleagues are expected to work from home or continue to attend appointments, then it is less likely.
A good holiday policy will deal with these sorts of issues.