Heavy snow and high winds sweeping parts of the UK have caused travel chaos in Scotland and the north of England, with London's Heathrow airport also cancelling some flights.
With more snow spreading across England on Thursday and Friday (see Met Office advice for the latest), disruption is expected to increase. Read on for your rights if you're affected by the extreme weather:
Q. If I can't get to work will my pay be docked?
Let's get the bad news out the way first: if you're unable to get to work due to snow-related travel disruption, you may be forced to take unpaid leave.
As conciliation service ACAS points out, there's no automatic legal entitlement for your employer to pay you in this scenario. However, some workplaces have 'adverse weather' policies which grant you the right to paid leave, or to discretionary payments for travel disruption.
Similarly, if your child's school is closed or your normal childcare arrangements are disrupted due to the snow, you may have the right to time off to look after your child – this should be agreed with your employer, according to Government advice.
The best course of action is to plan ahead as much as possible and be sure to check your rights with your employer. If it's practical to do so and your employer agrees, you could consider working from home.
Q. What if my workplace is closed?
If your workplace is closed because of disruption and you don't usually work from home, your employer can't usually deduct pay.
Employers might be able to ask staff to go to another workplace or work from home.
Q. Am I entitled to any cold weather benefits?
Some benefits recipients get £25/week if the temperature drops below 0°C for seven days. There's a postcode checker to see if you're owed cash. See our Housing and Energy Grants guide for more details.
Q. What if my car breaks down/I have an accident?
If you break down and have a roadside assistance policy, expect help to take a little longer than normal (see our Breakdown Cover guide for our best buys). The AA has useful advice on winter driving on its website to minimise problems with your vehicle.
If you have an accident, contact your insurer but ensure you take full details of any other vehicles involved and report the incident to the police, if necessary (see our Cheap Car Insurance guide).
Q. What if my train is delayed/cancelled?
Most train companies operate the Delay Repay system, which means that if your journey's delayed by 30+ minutes (15+ minutes with some operators) you're entitled to compensation.
Delays of an hour or more will normally see you get a full refund on a single fare, while delays of more than two should mean a full refund on return tickets. Season ticket holders can get money back too. For full details see our Train Delays guide.
Q. My flight's been cancelled/delayed. Will I be reimbursed?
Under EU regulations, you're entitled to the following:
- If flights are cancelled at short notice: Airlines must normally give you a full refund of any unused ticket or offer suitable alternative travel.
- If flights are delayed: You're only entitled to compensation if the delay was caused by something within the airline's control. Extraordinary circumstances aren't covered, and airlines may well classify severe weather conditions as an extraordinary circumstance.
However, you can still try asking the airline if it will compensate you – and if it turns you down and you disagree with the decision you can challenge it. European guidelines state that the airline must prove there were extraordinary circumstances and it took all reasonable steps to avoid them.
If your departure is delayed by over five hours, you can choose not to travel on the delayed flight and get a refund for that trip and for later flights on the same ticket. For full details on your rights, see our Flight Delays guide.
Q. What if I had a hotel/car hire booked at the other end I cannot use?
First, contact the relevant hotel/car hire firm to see if it will refund you – though this is a bit of a long shot.
If you bought travel insurance and made your travel arrangements before you knew of the disruption, your policy may pay out for non-refundable accommodation and other consequential losses (such as car hire) if you're severely delayed, though this varies depending on your level of coverage, so check your policy wording to see if you're covered.
You may even get compensation if you couldn't make it to the airport/train station/ferry port due to UK transport delays. But insurers may stipulate that you must have left reasonable time for your journey, given the weather problems.
Q. What if I booked a package holiday?
Package holidays are protected by package travel regulations, which means if your trip's delayed/cancelled, you should be offered alternative transport or an alternative holiday. If that's unsuitable, you'll get a full refund.