Will you get paid for building a snowman?

So, the weather has meant that you are stuck at home. Have you built a snowman with the kids or have you opted to let your braincells die by the billion watching mindless daytime soaps? Perhaps your partner has kicked your rear end into gear and made you clear the snow off the drive, do some DIY, spring-clean the house etc? Are you enjoying the extra and extended holiday from your job?

Maybe you’ve got to worrying about whether you will be paid if you are unable to get to work because of the snow and ice? How does all this bad weather stuff pan out?

Although the answer is not complex, it is complicated because, when it comes down to it, most British employers don’t really consider the implications of severe weather. This is despite being a race which is famous the world over for its obsession with it.

The first place to look is, of course, your employment contract. If it covers being prevented from getting to work because of bad weather, that is what you are both bound by although see also below.

Getting to work is your problem or is it?

Most employees will not have such a clause and this leaves them more or less completely at the whim of their employer. In the eyes of the law, how they get to work is their problem. They took the job on – no-one forced them – therefore they must have considered the logistics of the journey before applying. Thus, strictly speaking, failing to get to work because of bad weather is officially ‘absenteeism’ and, possibly, grounds for dismissal although how far an employer would get with that is debatable and it would certainly test the theory that any publicity is good publicity.

It is perfectly legal for a company to dock the pay from or even fine workers who do not present themselves for work for the whole of each working day as specified in their contracts. The weather is not the problem of the employer – they have to cope with the associated loss in productivity, they are not there to pay workers to build that snowman with their kids.

Your place of work is closed by your employer

However, if the weather is so bad that the employer decides to close the factory or office then legally you are in a position of having been laid off because there is no work. There may well be a mountain of things that need doing but, since the boss is preventing you from getting to them, the work does not exist as far as you are concerned. As a consequence, you are entitled to be paid but only at flat rate unless your contract guarantees a minimum bonus or level of overtime.

All this changes if the reason why you are absent is because you have to stay at home to look after kids whose school has closed because of the snow. In this case you are entitled to statutory (paid) time off to deal with an emergency (which is how it is classed).

Before you get into any argument or legal wrangle, always discuss your predicament calmly with your boss. When it comes down to it, your employer owes you a legal duty of care and, if they insist you venture out against the advice of the Police or Transport Authority, then that may well make them liable if you had an accident.

So, now you know where you stand, find a couple of large buttons, pull a carrot out of the veg drawer, don some welly boots and go and make that snowman with the kids.

Remember, this is only a simplified guide. If talking to the boss doesn’t give the answer you want to hear, seek formal legal advice.

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