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Snow days: can you be docked pay or worse sacked for a no-show at work?

Extreme weather can be a nightmare for workers, commuters and bosses (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Britain has been shivering, slithering and suffering as the Beast for the East sweeps across the country bringing heavy snowfalls and widespread disruption.

Hundreds of schools have closed, trains have been cancelled, roads blocked and some homes left without power by the bad weather.

And it seems the worst is yet to come, with forecasters predicting heavier snowfalls across much of the country – up to 40cm could fall on hilly areas – up to the weekend.

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But if you wake up over the next couple of days to find your car under two feet of snow, the trains cancelled and the roads blocked, just how much effort should you make to get to work?

Being unable to get into work could see you lose pay (Lucinda Cameron/PA)

Will I lose pay or worse get sacked for not turning up?
The bottom line is that most people are not automatically entitled to get paid if they cannot get into work.

According to Acas, the employment and conciliation service, much will depend on your contract of work.

Some employers may have it written in contracts, or have a collective agreement in place, that they will pay you if you cannot get to work owing to circumstances beyond your control, such as an extreme weather event.


Acas says it would be extremely unfortunate if anyone were to be sacked for a snow no-show and there would be grounds for appeal.

It adds that workers cannot be “forced to attempt a journey” into work if they feel it is unsafe.

What are the options if the office or factory is closed?
If your employer takes a decision to close your place of work then you could be asked to work from home, if possible, or travel to an alternative office.

Where you cannot work from home, then your boss should pay you regardless.

Workers cannot be compelled to attempt to get into work if they feel it’s unsafe to do so (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Can my boss force me to take a snow day as unpaid leave?
Your employer cannot force you to take the day off as part of your annual leave entitlement.

The law states that you must be given warning that is the equivalent of twice the length of the leave.

So, for example, if your boss plans to close the office on any given day, you must be given two days’ notice if you are expected to take a day’s leave.

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However, if you get more than the legal minimum of 5.6 weeks a year, (typically 28 days), including public holidays, then your employer can compel you to take leave without giving you any notice.

Also, according to Acas, your boss cannot force you to take the time as unpaid holiday, unless it is already written into your contract.

They would need your permission to deduct the money from your pay.

School closures can leave parents facing a tricky situation (Gareth Fuller/PA)

What’s the situation regarding the closure of schools and childcare?
Many parents will have found themselves facing a last-minute dash to find someone to look after their child as schools close because of snow.

In these circumstances, Acas states workers are entitled to take a “reasonable” time off to sort out childcare.

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It states: “In emergency situations an employee is entitled to take unpaid time off to look after dependants, although this would not normally apply to a situation where the employee was required to look after their children as a result of not having any childcare arrangements. In extreme weather conditions this could be seen as an emergency situation.”

However, the key to this is “reasonable” – just how much time away needs to be agreed between worker and boss.

And, whether this time off is treated as part of your holiday entitlement or unpaid or a day in lieu would need to be agreed.

How cold does it have to be at work to walk out?
The TUC says the legal minimum indoor temperature is 16°C (or 13°C if much of the work indoors involves severe physical effort).

If it gets colder than this (for example, if the heating has broken down) you’re entitled to go home until it is fixed without losing pay.