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Can employers expect their workers to come in when it’s snowing?

Written by Eric Johansson on Tuesday, 29 January 2019. Posted in Employment law, Legal

The British winter weather can wreak havoc on your business company if you don’t know what rights you and your employees have

Can employers expect their workers to come in when it’s snowing?

Bad winter weather is bad for business. In 2018, the Beast From the East stunted sales, forced multiple public transport cancellations and, ultimately, proved one of the major reasons why productivity slowed down in the first quarter of last year. Now the weather forecasters are warning that Britain may be in for the worst icy conditions since the last year’s chaos. As the threat of up to ten centimetres of snow is spreading across the UK, employers need to brush up on what they can and can’t expect from their employees. 

For instance, are workers entitled to get paid if they fail to show up to work due to the snow? Well, the answer is anything but clear-cut. "Minimum and maximum temperatures are a bit of a legal grey area,” advised Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library, the jobs site, when speaking with Elite Business. “While [there’s] no legal requirement in the UK for employers to send staff home if it’s too cold, they must provide reasonable working conditions. The guideline for which is a minimum of 16 degrees or 13 degrees if they’re doing physical work.” 

But what about salaries? “If staff can’t get into work due to the weather you’re not automatically obliged to pay them, unless there is something specific in their contract to say otherwise,” said Sue Andrews, HR and business consultant at KIS Finance, the independent finance brokers, exclusively to Elite Business. “However, if you choose to close your business for the day then you could find yourself liable to pay staff. Acas guidelines advise that if staff were willing to attend but you tell them not to, [they’re] entitled to be paid in full. If parents can’t come to work due to school closures [they’re] entitled to take the day off but they aren’t entitled to be paid.”

However, while employees aren’t entitled to get paid if the business is open for business and they can’t come in due to the weather, Biggins warned that employers should be sensible about what they ask from workers or risk ending up with a disgruntled workforce. "What’s more, if employees have a long or difficult commute, consider letting them work from home instead,” he continued. 

Additionally, Julie Taylor, senior associate in the employment team at, Gardner Leader, the law firm, told Elite Business: “[Employers] have a duty of care and should not force employees to travel in conditions that would put their health and safety at risk. [It’s] usually preferable to have a plan in place to deal with the process when the business is disrupted by travel and to look at alternatives, such as home-working, where possible.” 

Ultimately, deciding how to run the business is always going to be down to the boss. Nevertheless, given having disgruntled staff opens you up to everything from cybersecurity threats to employees leaving your business, our advise is to think long and hard whether it’s worth having employees risk life and limb to come into work if there are any alternatives. Remember, flexible working has come a long way thanks to technology. 

About the Author

Eric Johansson

As web editor and resident Viking, Johansson ensures EB is filled with engaging and eclectic entrepreneurial stories. While one of our most prolific tech writers, he has sharpened his editorial teeth by writing about entertainment and fitness. Follow him on Twitter at @EricJohanssonLJ to catch up with his stream of consciousness.

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