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Snow day Q&A: will I be paid, disciplined or lose holiday?

By This is Exeter  |  Posted: January 18, 2013

By Emma McFarnon

Snow cars

Many in the South West have been unable to travel to work due to heavy snow

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For many in the South West who woke up to a blanket of snow this morning, getting into work will have been unfeasible.

Be it due to treacherous road conditions, suspended bus services or school closures, the white stuff has prevented a number of workers across the region from getting to their place of work.

But what are your employee rights when it comes to taking a snow day? Do you have a right to be paid, or will you be forced to take it as holiday?

Jobsite’s legal expert Philip Landau, from London law firm Landau Zeffertt Weir, explains: "There is no single, standard approach on workers employment rights in regards to snow.

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"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."

Our snow day Q&A guide, courtesy of Jobsite, answers your questions in more detail:

Do I have a right to be paid?

In short, unless your employer has a 'bad weather' policy, you are at the whim of your boss as to whether your pay is docked if you do not turn up for work.

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.

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 better to try to reach an agreement with your employer as opposed to using up your holiday entitlement, however.

Can I suggest alternatives to my employer?

Yes, although employers are not obliged to agree to any.

The advisory conciliation service ACAS has long recommended the following:

- Offering to make up lost hours by working additional unpaid overtime or different shift-patterns

- Offering to work from home

- 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

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

Yes. Your employer may require you to take annual leave on particular days by giving the appropriate notice.

The law states you must be given warning the equivalent of twice the length of the leave. Such notice should specify the day(s)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 boss requires you to take a day’s leave, you must be given two 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).

My workplace is closed due to bad weather. What are my rights?

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

I could get to work, but school closures prevent me from doing so due to child care issues. Do I have any rights?

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.

Could I be disciplined?

If you don't inform your employer of your whereabouts or do not make a sufficient effort to get into work, disciplinary action is a possibility.

For example, if all your colleagues have made it in and you have not, questions will likely be asked.

As long as you do not take unreasonable advantage of the situation, this is unlikely to turn into a disciplinary matter.

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