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Adverse weather conditions: employee rights
The UK workforce is often subject to Mother Nature’s unexpected weather changes. While sometimes this is a welcome surprise, especially on the weekend when you get to play in the snow or layout in the sun, other times it may not be so enjoyable. It is difficult to determine what we are entitled to when the weather affects our working week. So, we’ve put together a summary of UK workers’ rights when it comes to the weather, hopefully dispelling some of the myths that might be circulating around your office.
Snow is common during the winter months in the UK, and when it arrives, it often causes unwelcome stress amongst commuters across the country. Here are the facts when it comes to getting to work in the snow.
- You are not automatically entitled to pay if you are unable to get to work due to bad weather. However, according to the advice and guidance from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) on workplace issues over winter months, if your employer provides your travel to work and this has been cancelled, then you should still be paid for the day.
- It can also be at the discretion of your employer as to whether or not you get paid. An alternative is taking a last-minute annual leave day so that you don’t miss out on any remuneration.
- You can request to work from home, or your employer may ask you to work from home for the day. However, unless your contract states that you have to work from home due to adverse weather, your employer cannot insist that you do this.
- If the entire office is closed due to the bad weather then you are entitled to pay. However, if you are able to get to another office location or work from home, then your employer may ask you to do this instead.
Schools are often the first to close as a result of heavy or unexpected snowfall. If your child’s school has been closed for the day, then you have the right to take the day off unpaid to look after them.
A cold workplace
That old myth that you can go home if the office is below a certain temperature is untrue. However, Acas states that you will have some other rights if you work in an office and the temperature is below 16 degrees, or if you work in a physical role and the temperature is below 13 degrees. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortably cold at work, then you have the right to bring in heaters or hot water bottles to work with you to get warmer.
If you are vulnerable, for example, you are poorly or pregnant and the temperature of the office is having a detrimental effect on your health, then you can take paid leave to recover.
Similar to cold working conditions, there is no maximum temperature that a workplace can be for it to be deemed as unsafe. According to Acas, the temperature of your workplace needs to be kept ‘reasonable’ by your employer.
Although overly hot weather isn’t common in the UK, it is important to be safe when that ever- heatwave strikes. Here are some tips for keeping cool in the hot weather.
- Plan your travel ahead of time. Although this doesn’t affect your body temperature, most commuters are left frustrated when their train is late or cancelled due to the tracks being too hot. If you find that you are unable to get to work on time or at all, get in touch with your employer about working from home, or about making up the time later in the week.
- It is important to keep hydrated at work. Be sure to drink at least two litres of water throughout the day, this will help protect you against dehydration.
- Acas recommends speaking to your employer about a more comfortable dress code for the hot weather. They aren’t under obligation to agree to your requests, but they may agree to relax the corporate standard for a few weeks whilst it is uncomfortably hot.
Thankfully, flooding doesn’t occur very often in many parts of the UK. But, for those of us that live or work in areas that are at risk of flooding, it is important to know your rights.
If your workplace is flooded and you are unable to enter the office because of this, then you are generally entitled to full pay. However, if your home gets flooded and you need to take leave to rectify the damages, then you are not automatically entitled to receive payment for the time that you aren’t at work. You are entitled to take annual leave if your employer requests that you do so, but they cannot force you to unless it states this within your contract.
Weather conditions can be difficult to manoeuvre when trying to manage our work responsibilities. However, it is important to keep in regular contact with your employer, giving updates on the situation as it occurs. This way you will be able to either make the time up at a later date, work from home for a period of time, or take annual leave. This way, you don’t have to miss out on pay because of the weather. It is also worth noting that some contracts will have guidelines stating processes in these situations. Therefore, it is important to find out what your company’s policy is when it comes to such circumstances.
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