UK weather: Can I leave work if it’s too cold? Know what your boss MUST do to make sure employees are warm

WITH winter upon us and Christmas looming it inevitably means plunging temperatures.

Forecasters are already predicting heavy snowfall as early as next week – and so many will be questioning their rights when it comes to going into work.


Getting to work during the winter months can become a challenge, with slippery roads and icy train tracks making the commute a dangerous affair.

In the past, these issues have often led to people taking the day off – but with remote working now the norm thanks to the Covid pandemic, many will continue to log on from home no matter the weather.

But for some whose jobs can't be done from home, it's key to know what their employer expects when bad weather hits, and what their rights are.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers always have a duty of care to ensure their workers are safe and this becomes even more important when the weather turns cold.

While there is no minimum workplace temperature that must legally be met, this does include everything from providing appropriate clothing to help them stay warm to ensuring the workspace is safe and free from slip hazards, for example.

Ultimately, if an employer can’t comply with the law and guarantee their workforce will be safe, they can’t require them to come into work.

If staff have been told to work from home because of severe weather conditions, however, employers are not bound by law to reimburse workers for costs such as heating, lighting and broadband.

However, you may be able to claim tax relief for additional household costs if you have to work at home on a regular basis.

You can either claim tax relief on £6 a week from April 6, 2020, or the exact amount of the extra costs you’ve incurred above the weekly amount – but you’ll need evidence such as a receipt, bills or contracts.

Meanwhile, if bad weather stops you from getting to work, it is largely down to your contract of employment whether you will get paid.

Neha Thethi, head of employment at Lime Solicitors, said: "Many employers will have a ‘bad weather policy’, so it is always worth checking your contract. However, on a general note, employees are not automatically entitled to pay if they’re unable to get to work because of bad weather.

"Employees are expected to make reasonable efforts to attend work despite any severe transport disruption or road closures.

"However, employees should not be expected to put their health and safety at risk getting into work, therefore, it is usually best practice to be flexible in these circumstances."

OFFICE CLOSURES

Meanwhile, if an employer closes the office because it is inaccessible, staff should be paid for the day.

Neha added: "Withholding pay when employees are unable to work through no fault of their own could be considered as an unauthorised deduction from wages.

"In those circumstances, employees may be able to bring a claim against their employer. However, it should be noted that some employment contracts contain a temporary ‘lay-off’ clause.

"If this is the case, employers can refuse to give the full amount of pay to employees to a limited time."

But if parents are forced to pick up their kids if their school closes due to extreme weather, they may not be paid for the time they take off.

Neha said: "If a school was closed at short notice, this would constitute an emergency relating to a dependant, in which case, you would be entitled to take time off as dependency leave.

"This type of leave does not have to be paid. Your employer can not refuse you dependency leave if you have no other choice and you cannot be disciplined or sacked for taking the time off."

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