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Snow your rights!

Alison Hunt
by Lovemoney Staff Alison Hunt on 18 January 2013  |  Comments 21 comments

With a number of schools and nurseries closed due to the adverse weather conditions, what does this mean for working parents?

Snow your rights!

Isn't snow great? That lovely sparkly white stuff - it makes fabulous snowmen and just makes everything look so pretty.

That is until you remember this sudden deluge has brought the country to a halt, making the roads and rails treacherous and forcing many businesses to temporarily close.

Now most of us probably think this is great - who's going to complain about being forced to stay at home as work is shut? But things can be very different for parents who work.

Working from home

The trouble is, like many parents I work from home - so the weather really has little impact on whether or not I can meet my deadlines. Having two young children to look after at the same time, however, definitely does!

Clearly all is fine and dandy if your company has been forced to close too - you can happily spend all day making snowmen with the kids. But what if your office or workplace is open, your colleagues have battled their way in and you could work from home. How on earth can you do your job while looking after the kids? And if you can't will your pay packet suffer?

What are your rights?

Well, it all depends on your employer as to how you will be treated. The Employment Rights Act 1996 does protect employees to some extent as it means employers cannot simply dock pay without a good reason.

That said, as a general rule employees are entitled to be paid only for the work they have done. So if you can't come into the office or work from home to complete the work you're paid to do, your employer doesn't have to pay you.So what is the likely outcome?

Contracts and goodwill

Well, you may be lucky and find that your contract or workplace policy has a clause that deals with adverse weather conditions, allowing employees who can't work to still be paid. Alternatively you may find your employer will still pay employees as a goodwill gesture.

But what if there isn't such a policy in place?

Emergency unpaid leave

Employees are entitled to a certain amount of unpaid leave in order to deal with emergencies concerning their dependents (children, spouses, partners, parents, or anyone that relies on the employee for assistance).

And while this would not normally include employees needing to take time off due to not having made childcare arrangements, it could be argued that school closures (which are only announced in the morning) constitute an emergency situation.

Make up the time

Another option taken by many companies is to allow employees the time off, as long as they make it up later. So depending on the job you do you could work late (when the kids have gone to bed) and/or make up the time when the weather has improved by working extended hours.

Holiday

And of course, your employer may decide that employees can deduct the time off from their annual leave entitlement.

Practical measures

Alternatively, there are other measures we can try ourselves to deal with the situation.

Roping in relatives to help at short notice with childcare is an obvious solution. But if your folks live too far away or are unable to help, and you know (and trust) another parent in the same boat you could try and share childcare between you.

For example, one parent could take all of the kids in the morning and give them lunch whilst the other one works, then swap over for the afternoon and dinner. This does rather depend on knowing another parent of similarly aged kids who'd be up for participating at short notice (and that you're both prepared to look after numerous kids at once!) but does at least show willing to your employer.

All going well you'll come up with a workable solution between you to deal with the situation that won't result in losing pay.

Be responsible

The main thing is to keep your employer informed.

  • Let your employer know as soon as you know you won't be able to get in to work and discuss your options.
  • Explain why you can't travel in (schools closed and no childcare available, cancelled trains, car snowed in, warnings on travel news etc) and ask what you should do (work from home if possible, etc).
  • Finally, be sure to clarify how this will affect your pay (will time off be taken as unpaid leave, holiday or can it be made up later?).

Above all, remember that snow days are a nightmare for businesses so it is bound to be greatly appreciated if you can somehow make arrangements to get to work/work from home.

But of course, whatever your company's procedure you could find resentment in the office if some workers have struggled their way in while others must stay at home due to childcare commitments.

Let's just hope colleagues can be understanding regarding these unusual conditions - what they probably don't realise is that after an impromptu day looking after over-excited kids you'll probably find yourself far more frazzled than them!

This is a lovemoney.com classic article

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Snow travel chaos: Your rights for compensation

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Comments (21)

  • summerbayexile
    Love rating 6
    summerbayexile said

    Going back to my early days at work in the mid 80s employers were much fairer with their workforce in wintry weather. I think there are two main reasons why they have become so unforgiving.

    1. There is no union structure so employees can be treated exactly as the employers like. In fact, even where there is a union big companies like BA can go to the law which is entirely in favour of employers.

    2. When I was at work and people couldn't get in, we shrugged our shoulders and got on with what needed doing. There was none of this selfishness you see nowadays with anti-parent feeling.

    I feel sure that there will finally be a backlash against this draconian, money driven, part time/casual culture we have at the moment. Until that happens, however, most companies will continue to be unreasonable.

    Report on 09 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • Swarbs
    Love rating 273
    Swarbs said

    That's an interesting point summerbayexile, but I think you've missed one very important point. The current economic climate is much more competitive and less forgiving. Businesses which are more flexible in wintry weather may find themselves losing out and facing financial difficulties against their less flexible competitors, particularly if those competitors are from countries where there's no bad weather at the moment. Unfortunately it no longer pays to treat employees fairly.

    Report on 09 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • summerbayexile
    Love rating 6
    summerbayexile said

    Point taken Swarbs! I was looking at the utopian view, but as a business studies teacher in my younger days, I am sure that companies can cut employees a little more slack and reap great benefits from employee goodwill. At least the theory works out that way!

    Report on 09 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • Mike10613
    Love rating 626
    Mike10613 said

    I tried reporting my sisters phone out of order the other day. The fault is obvious. The cold has contracted the copper probably o the pole in the same place as the last fault. I was first put through to Belfast. I continued what I was doing on the Internet and put them on speaker while they put me on hold. I finally got an idiot. I was transferred! I am then on hold to Bangalore! lol. I have to explain to another idiot in Bangalore that I can't pop around to my sister's house and check her equipment. I do have a certificate in telecommunication; but that doesn't help when you have a 1/4 of an inch of ice over your car and you're virtually snowed in! I eventually got a more direct number. After 2 hours someone in Bangalore diverted all her calls to her mobile phone - it took a little persuasion! I think a competent technician could have answered the phone and done that in 5 minutes flat. But we have to use "cheap labour" in Bangalore and it takes 2 hours. The company also sponsors a rubbish TV programme; the X factor! They need the X-factor to keep all their services running! 

    Maybe a talent content to find competent technicians and technologists would be in order? 

    Report on 09 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • soph6125
    Love rating 0
    soph6125 said

    wee what i want to know is my husband is very willing to work but the firm has closed untill the snow is gone and we have been told hes not being paid so if he is willing then what are my rights then?

    Report on 09 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • bravosierra39
    Love rating 2
    bravosierra39 said

    Would summerbayexile pay for shopping that was not delivered because of snow? I don't think so, so why should an employer pay for work that was not done.

    It seems a fair proportion of people did not make any attempt to get to their workplace. I am self employed and if I don't work I don't get paid. 

    It was estimated that each day of disruption cost £2 billion which will be passed onto consumers & taxpayers.

    Report on 09 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • Hel22
    Love rating 2
    Hel22 said

    I agree with bravosierra39, in my firm most people who lived in the area like me, walked the couple of miles, but there were some that did not make the effort, this unfortunlately has meant that others who live 30 miles away were also told they weren't going to paid, despite genuinely not being able to get,

    It's a shame a few selfish people make it awful for others - life in general I guess, things aren't what they use to be!! 

    Report on 09 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • summerbayexile
    Love rating 6
    summerbayexile said

    No bravosierra, I wouldn't pay for shopping that wasn't delivered, but I would understand if they had to deliver it on another day. Also the assumption that a fair number of people didn't make any effort is one I would question.

    The police in our area were telling us only to make ESSENTIAL journeys. In most cases I would not call getting to work an essential journey unless you are in an emergency service. If everyone is struggling into work we create the situation where more accidents/ travel chaos is guaranteed.

    If most firms were as flexible as their workers the work, admin for instance, could be done from home. My point remains though, that the firms would get a lot more back from employees if they were more understanding at times like this. 

    Report on 10 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • jonswatton
    Love rating 2
    jonswatton said

    Hmmm... this is a difficult one.... as you can see both sides of the argument in terms of staying at home as the media recommend 'essential travel only' vs a duty (perhaps this is wishful thinking) to make reasonable endeavours to get to work if possible.

    I run my own business and work from a serviced office in Oxfordshire some 25 miles away from home. I got to work every day last week (in fact it was an easier drive as nobody was on the road!). Out of a car park of 40 car capacity, which is normally full, the most we saw last week was 8 cars. In the main, these were people that run their own businesses rather than the employees.

    I'm afraid I am a little cynical over the 'easy option' of staying at home just because somebody on the radio says so. Obviously, everybody's circumstances are different so you have to take common sense approach but yesterday, my local Tesco's was packed with people going mad stocking up on provisions. I wonder how many of those people who bravely battled the roads to get their shopping in could have tried just that little bit harder to get to work.

     

     

    Report on 10 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • atseyes1
    Love rating 4
    atseyes1 said

    There are other factors involved as well, of which the first is that these conditions are very much more unusual than they were, so we are far less equipped to deal with them, both as individuals and as companies.

    Secondly, we live in a compensation culture, where every incident is 'someone's' fault, and can be used as a way of getting money - the compensation - off them, which is why schools etc are far more ready to close, and why 'Health and Safety' is so important. 'Essential' tends to mean 'anything which isn't going to cost me money if it goes wrong'.

    Thirdly, the primary aim of most, if not all, businesses these days is to make profits for their owers/shareholders, which they do by providing goods or a service. And whist they need staff to do this, and need to pay enough to attract them, wages are a drain on this.

    Or am I being entirely far too cynical?!!

    Report on 11 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • tinkerbell84
    Love rating 0
    tinkerbell84 said

    The statutory minimum disciplinary procedure was repealed almost a year ago and is no longer the correct procedure to be relied upon. This is now the ACAS Code of Practice. If articles are written relating to procedures I do feel that they need to be correct with up to date information provided.

    Report on 11 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • SANDYD
    Love rating 0
    SANDYD said

    Well I am self employed and work from home with two teenage children. Schools were closed and my son's school sent them home at lunchtime one day, so when we thought it was going to be Ok for the day the children had to call their parents !

    I got some work done on those days and had a carry over to the weekend for any non urgent work.  Surely employers would be happy to let you work an hour a day for a while to ensure you didnt have to suffer in wages or annual leave.

    My line of thinking is that if you have offered to make the time up then they shouldnt deduct you any pay !  There is such a thing as unlawful deductions in wages, might be an arguing point !

    But employers are quite unforgiving and it probably starts with the recruitment process and the regarding 'dependants' on the application form !

    Report on 17 January 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • oldgold
    Love rating 5
    oldgold said

    What are the rights of a 70% leaseholder who pays a service charge for a 55+ bungalow to have the surroundings of his home cleared of snow and ice?

    Report on 06 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • bengilda
    Love rating 100
    bengilda said

    "oldgold". Snow clearing on your premises is a DIY job - if it really needs doing. Started winter snow clearing as a boy some 70 years ago and still do it now.

    Report on 06 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • meaning2bmoneysavvy
    Love rating 0
    meaning2bmoneysavvy said

    @soph6125

    Some employers do cover any loss of money if workers/employees miss a day of work due to adverse and extreme weather conditions. I would advise that it is purely down to what is stated in your contract and also what the employers policy is regarding absence due to severe weather. If in further doubt, contact the HR department of your employer and they can advise (albeit HR is more to do with human remains rather than human resources).

    I would also argue that it is unreasonable that your husband would be penalised if he is unable to come into work due to a problem that is out of his control and if this does happen, claim paid or unpaid annual leave. After all it is all about covering your own back

    Report on 10 February 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • mazbar
    Love rating 3
    mazbar said

    Today it has snowed where we are from 8am till gone 12 have I stopped work no I am self employed so no work no money what job do I do I fit tv aerials and have been up on roofs in the snow so if I can do that why carn't teachers teach

    Report on 18 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • Meanmachine2
    Love rating 39
    Meanmachine2 said

    bengilda,

    Watch clearing that snow.

    In the old days everybody cleared their bit of pavement etc.

    Now days where you have cleared becomes your responsibility if somebody slips over, so this can leave you open to a legal claim.

    If you dont touch it, it is then a natural hazard which you are not responsible for.

    Report on 18 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Arblaster
    Love rating 43
    Arblaster said

    When I was working, I used to love it when it was snowing.

    Why go into work when it is dangerous, and you can be stuck in a traffic jam for hours and hours, because some chump who thinks that the firm can't live without him holds everyone up because his tyres can't get a grip?

    The best thing to do is ring in and say you are snowed in, and you can't get in because you haven't got a snowplough. Then you refill your hot water bottle and go back to bed. When you get up in the afternoon, you sit by a roaring fire with a glass of scotch whisky....or would you rather sit in a traffic jam, freezing your nuts off, wondering when you are going to get home...? Wondering if you are going to get home...

    It's just not worth going into work.

    Report on 18 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • electricblue
    Love rating 769
    electricblue said

    @Meanmachine2

    Old wives' tale. Utter nonsense, give one example you've ever heard of someone being prosecuted because they cleared snow. Even the Prime Minister made the point last year of exposing this silly liability nonsense as drivel. On the basis of your information, councils would always be liable if we skidded after they had cleared and gritted roads.

    I'm self employed and for the most part have worked from home for 30 plus years. No sympathy whatsoever with those disrupted by kids at home or having to change work patterns - it's weather, it's life and if you are sick of either you always have options.

    Report on 19 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Meanmachine2
    Love rating 39
    Meanmachine2 said

    @electricblue

    I think on some of the cases I have seen with ambulance chasing solicitors these days people will go for anything they think they can get away with, whilst Councils are bigger and can fight back ordinary Joe Blogs doesnt stand a chance.

    One of my neighbours was walking his dog off the lead. Old biddy with a rat on a string saw him coming so bent down to pick up rat. She fell over and broke her wrist. Despite the fact my neighbour tended to her and called ambulance she sued him and won £10000.

    Child jumped off minature train whilst it was going and cut knee. Parents sued owner on the grounds that there was not a sign saying dont get off whilst moving. Luckily judge threw that one out.

    If Macdonalds can be sued for serving hot coffee then what ever you can get away with seems to be the rule these days

    Report on 21 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • electricblue
    Love rating 769
    electricblue said

    People will indeed sue for anything they can get away with and there are stupid instances -

    (The Macdonalds case was in the USA and all subsequent try-ons like that were thrown out of court) - there HAS to be negligence in some form. A child should not be able to get off a moving miniature train if on it without parental supervision, because kids do stupid things and those catering for children have an absolute duty of care. If someone is out walking his pet wolf and it scares a little old lady and her tiny dog, then the person with the scary pet has an absolute duty to control said animal and if it has a tendency to eat smaller dogs, it should be on a lead.

    Report on 27 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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