Can’t get to work because of bad weather? Your legal rights fact checked

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Heavy rain has battered the UK in recent months, causing road and rail closures across the country to the dismay of commuters. With winter looming, many fear being snowed in – what happens if you can’t get to work due to bad weather? Here are your rights explained.

Heavy snow flurries may be eagerly anticipated by children, but they can spell disaster for workers needing to commute to work on snowy roads.

As winter sets in, the weather will likely get worse. Ice and heavy rain could make getting to work dangerous. has spoken to a legal expert to find out what your rights are as an employee if you can’t get to work due to bad weather.

Unfortunately, it seems many workers will have to trek into work despite any adverse conditions, as legally bosses have the right to withhold wages if their employees fail to show up due to bad weather.

Tina Chander, Head of Employment Law at Wright Hassall, told “Employees do not have a legal right to be paid if they cannot travel to work due to adverse weather conditions.”

What should you do if you can’t get into work?

Your first point of call should be to get in touch with your line manager.

The quickest way to get in touch will probably be via the phone, but be sure to follow up with an email as a paper trail is always handy if you need to challenge your employer in the future.

Timing is important. Try to make sure you log your absence as early as possible, as Ms Chander explains: “They must ensure that they comply with their employer’s absence reporting procedure to prevent it being recorded as an unauthorised absence.

“Most employers will require their employees to report their absence by either 9am or 10am on the first day of absence.”

What should you do if your employer refuses to pay you if you can’t travel to work due to bad weather conditions?

As employees do not have an automatic legal right to be paid if they can’t make it into work due to bad weather conditions, you may not have any legal grounds to challenge your boss.

The only exception to this would be if your contract has a clause allowing leave if you are unable to attend work due to adverse weather conditions.

If not, you may be forced to take the day as annual leave in order to be paid as usual.

But as the bad weather generally tends to set in towards the end of the year, you may well have used up all your annual leave entitlement.

Ms Chander recommended getting in touch with your manager to see if you can come to an alternative arrangement to make up your lost hours.

Ms Chander said: “They could, for example, work additional time at the end of each day, work through a proportion of their lunch break or use banked lieu hours, if this is an option within the organisation.”

Alternatively, you may be able to work from home if your office has established a hybrid working model.

What happens if schools close due to bad weather?

If you are forced to stay at home to look after your children if their school has closed due to bad weather, your legal rights will change.

Ms Chander said: “Employees are permitted by law to take reasonable time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant. However, there is no legal obligation for an employer to pay an employee for emergency time off.”

She added: “Adverse weather conditions resulting in a school closure at short notice is likely to be regarded as an emergency.”

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