TUC Advice On What To Do When It Snows

2 Dec 2010

With large parts of the UK under snow and ice, the TUC is urging employers to adopt a flexible attitude to staff attendance, and where possible allow employees to work from home.

As the arctic conditions continue across the UK, causing hundreds of schools to close, working parents have the added problem of what to do with their children even if they can make it into work, says the TUC. With the cold snap likely to continue for several more days, the TUC says that if employees have internet, e-mail and phones at home, the most sensible solution for employers is to allow them to work there during snowy periods.

Communication between employers and their staff, and between workers and their managers is key when the weather takes a turn for the worse, says the TUC. Good employers will already have ‘bad weather’ policies in place and will have told their workforce what is expected of them when snow and ice close the workplace or make the usual commute difficult or hazardous. Any ‘snow’ policy should also cover what parents should do if their local schools close and they have no alternative means of childcare.

Clearly workers should make every effort to get in to work and not simply give up at the first sight of a few snowflakes, says the TUC. But embarking on a journey which could put themselves or the emergency services in danger, is not a sensible move either, particularly if they live in isolated, rural areas.

Employers also need to be careful that they aren’t putting undue pressure on their employees to get into work, or are putting them in a situation where staff feel they have no choice but to go into work or risk facing possible disciplinary action or losing a day’s pay.

Not every kind of job can be done from home and the blizzard-like conditions are putting undue pressure on the health and emergency services in some areas. Often staff will be struggling to cover for colleagues who haven’t been able to make it in, says the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘In many parts of the country the advice from the police is not to travel unless journeys are absolutely necessary. And given that the adverse weather conditions are causing huge delays across the road and transport networks, it would be very unfair if an employer decided to dock pay from staff who failed to make it in because of the snow. Workers everywhere have been braving the snow and ice to get into work, but where the weather makes someone’s usual commute unsafe, or where working parents find themselves with children but with no childcare, a more sensible approach is needed. Best practice is simply to pay as normal those staff who cannot make it in. Asking employees to take a day’s holiday is less reasonable and may create unnecessary resentment. Where possible staff should be encouraged to work from home. That way the job still gets done, most of the wintery hazards are avoided, and good workplace relations are maintained.’

Advice on workSMART, the TUC’s world of work website, to individuals living in snow-bound parts of the country says:

  * There’s no general legal right to be paid if you can’t come into work because of the weather, but many companies have ‘bad weather’ policies so that employees who are genuinely kept away from work by dangerous weather and lack of transport still get paid. In addition, in cases where the office or factory does not open, many employers will have a contractual duty to pay staff who turn up to work.
  * If employers who don’t have ‘bad weather’ policies refuse to pay staff or force them to take holiday, this could cause unnecessary resentment among those who’ve been kept away from work through no fault of their own, or create a risk for people travelling to work in genuinely dangerous situations.
  * Many employees are able to work from home, thanks to technology linking them to an office network, and this might be a useful alternative for both staff and employers to consider.

- The TUC snow advice on worksmart is at http://www.worksmart.org.uk/news/2009/02/bad-weather-commutings-snow-joke