Accessibility Links

Snow days are snow joke.

Posted by: Megan Troster

January brings those frosty mornings that make none of us want to get out of bed – and of course with them, the possibility of snow. For some people snow is a bit of fun but for employers and their employees it presents lengthy legal issues. Unless otherwise agreed, employees are obliged to come into work unless they are sick, on holiday or are taking other forms of leave such as maternity/shared parental leave. So if it does happen to snow and the office remains open during such snow day’s employees should make every reasonable effort to try and make it into work. If they fail to do so, employers could argue this as an unauthorised absence and a breach of contract.

What if you can’t get into work because you need to look after your kids due to their school closures? Are workers still entitled to pay? It is worth looking into if you can’t get into work through no fault of your own. If you are lucky some employers may already have a ‘bad weather’ policy whereby employees are still entitled to their pay. If you haven’t got such a policy then it is up to your employer, some may refuse to pay while others suggest or insist that this comes off your annual leave. TUC had this to add ‘ 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.’ Most employers however will consider the impact on staff morale and the relationship they have with their employees. The main issues for people are transport and it being not available due to the weather. If there are other means of transport then you should use them but staff should not have to put themselves at unnecessary high risks to attend work.

How should you approach your employer? You could offer to make up for lost hours by working unpaid/additional overtime. If you work in an office you could work from home which can be a very feasible solution if you are able to log in to computer systems remotely or where your work involves a lot of telephone use. Employees must appreciate that they are expected to perform all normal working duties from home as much as is possible – and employers should be reasonable and help their employees with resources that enables them to work from home. This can be through company mobiles, laptops, iPads etc.

If there is a faster more direct route but it comes at an additional cost – you could ask your employer to expense the extra cost if they are insistent on you being in the office. Line managers after are likely to be having the same problems as you so they will appreciate the genuine difficulty that you are having. Some parents may find themselves in the predicament where they can get to work but schools are closed. This situation is different from when your child is ill which you are otherwise entitled to the time off. You would be expected to make arrangements for the children in these circumstances; it all depends on how lenient or generous your employer is. If employers are ‘mean spirited’ then they risk staff resentment – something they should try their best at avoiding. Its better to meet staff halfway, if there was a case when snow prevents people from travelling to work employers who would not normally pay for staff who failed to turn up. They could offer to pay staff for a limited time only (1-2 days) and meet them halfway.

Employers should therefore look ahead now. Due to the various legal issues and complications around snow days they should consider putting a policy in place or an action plan that they can go by in the event of a ‘snow day’. Each plan should be specific to each department and details of how employees should work from home. The REC does not currently have model documents on such policies.

Add new comment