Come rain or shine… the myths around working in bad weather conditions
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There is no automatic legal right for an employee to be paid for working time they have missed because of travel disruption or bad weather
This article will explore the rights and obligations of both employers and employees if they are unable to travel to work because of the weather; and if there are requirements for employers when employees are working indoors and outdoors.
Minimum and maximum temperatures
Currently, there is no law for minimum or maximum working temperatures. This is applicable whether it is ‘too cold’ or ‘too hot’ to work. However, Government guidance explains that during working hours the temperature in all indoor workplaces must be reasonable.
Government guidance also suggests a minimum of 16ºC or 13ºC if employees are doing physical work. Again, there is no guidance specifying a maximum temperature limit.
Employers should ensure they adhere to health and safety at work law.
- keeping the temperature at a comfortable level
- providing clean and fresh air.
If an employee is not comfortable with the workplace temperature, they should inform their employer. Employers should consider including a workplace temperature policy within the staff handbook or manual, so it is clear what should be done in such an event.
In relation to outdoor working, the Health & Safety Executive has advised that the most effective ways of manging cold environments are to implement administrative controls.
These may consist of:
- ensuring the personal protective equipment issued is appropriate
- providing mobile facilities for warming up, and encourage the drinking of warm fluids such as soup or hot drinks
- allowing for frequent rest breaks
- educating workers about recognising the early symptoms of cold stress
- Conducting risk assessments. This would need to include consideration of personal factors, i.e. body activity, clothing, duration of exposure; and environmental factors, such as ambient temperature, radiant heat, sunlight, wind velocity, rain or snow.
Adverse weather and travel disruption
If an employee is unable to travel to work due to adverse weather or travel disruption, they must inform their employer as soon as possible.
There is no automatic legal right for an employee to be paid for working time they have missed because of travel disruption or bad weather. However, if such transport was to be provided the employer and it is cancelled because of bad weather or travel disruption, and an employee was otherwise ready, willing and available to work, the employee should be paid for any working time they have missed. Although, certain contracts and workplace policies may have special arrangements in relation to this. This may consist of pay arrangements. Some employers may also make discretionary, informal arrangements.
What if an employer decides it has to close?
Employees who were ready, available and willing to work will usually be entitled to their normal pay if:
- the employer fully or partly closes their business.
- the employer reduces their hours.
- other essential staff such as line managers are unable to get into work.
- staff who provide access to the building are unable to get into work.
Contracts and workplace policies will need to be referred to, as both of these documents will detail the process in such circumstances. This may include alternative options such as working at the nearest accessible workplace, doing other duties or working from home.
What if the employee is in an emergency involving a dependent?
In this circumstance, anyone with employee status has the right to take unpaid time off. Such circumstances could include if a school is closed, and an employee cannot leave their child. This time is usually unpaid unless a contract or policy says otherwise. The employee would again need to contact the employer as soon as possible and explain the emergency.
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