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Bad weather is snow joke for staff trying to get to work

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Employers should use common sense during this week’s cold snap and not force staff to make dangerous journeys into work

Some of us may be rubbing our (cold) hands with glee as snow falls around the UK this week.

But others will be left worrying what to do about getting to work if trains and buses stop running – or if schools are closed.

So the TUC is calling on employers to use their common sense during this week’s cold snap and asking them not to force staff to make dangerous journeys to work.

While workers should make every effort to get into their office, shop or factory if they can, bosses shouldn’t force staff to make dangerous journeys just for the sake of it.

Nor should people attempt to travel if it’s not safe to do so – particularly if they live in remote areas. 

But what are the options when snow makes it too risky to get into work?

Weather policies

In some parts of the UK temperatures have fallen well below zero, with snow and ice causing severe disruption.

For many people conditions this week have already made their commute virtually impossible.

Good bosses will have bad weather policies in place so staff know what to do – and those who’ve not already done so should be urgently drawing them up.

These weather policies should clearly set out what staff should do when snow and ice on the roads or a lack of public transport prevents them getting to work.

Pay

Employers and workers must keep each other informed as to whether it's safe, or even possible, to commute to and from work.

Whether your boss can withhold pay if you don't get to work due to bad weather depends on your contract, or the usual practice in your workplace. Check your company policy.

But the TUC says employers shouldn’t withhold pay or force people to use their holiday if they can’t get into work. This is unfair on staff who’ve been kept away from work through no fault of their own. 

And Scrooge bosses who dock pay and take away holiday risk adding to their business woes by creating resentment among their staff.

Childcare

Bad weather policies should also cover what parents should do if schools close and they have no alternative childcare. 

Employers need to be aware of the difficulties faced by staff with children in schools that close due to the weather.

Some may be able to take their children to work and others may be able to work from home. But those who can do neither need support and understanding from their bosses. 

Homeworking

When the snow causes problems it makes sense for employers to allow staff to work from home if they can, rather than struggle with a lengthy commute to and from work. 

An increasing amount of employees are now able to work from home, with TUC research finding that 1.6 million employees regularly worked from home last year.

This could be a useful option for employers and staff to make the best of the situation.

Temperature

And bosses shouldn’t forget that they also need to keep their workplaces safe during the current cold weather.

The temperature should normally be at least 16°C (or 13°C if much of the work indoors involves severe physical effort).

And bosses should also ensure entrances to workplaces are gritted and not slippery.