Travellers across the UK continue to face major disruption as Storm Emma and the so-called 'Beast from the East' winter storm bring heavy snow and Siberian temperatures. As the big freeze drags on, we've a round-up of your key travel, work and energy rights.
Here are the latest developments, as of 3pm on Friday 2 March:
- Rail services across the UK have been affected, with many trains cancelled – see full help below on your train rights.
- 100s of flights to and from airports across the UK are still cancelled – see your rights if your flight is delayed or cancelled.
- Schools in Scotland, the south of England and south Wales have been closed – see your employee rights if your child's school is shut.
- Many have been struggling to get into work, with a number of police forces reporting tricky driving conditions – see your rights if you can't get into work.
- Online grocery deliveries have been delayed and cancelled – see your rights if a delivery's failed.
- Cold weather payments have been activated in some areas – see below to check your eligibility.
- Motorists have been advised that driving during a red weather warning DOESN'T invalidate your insurance – see below for more info on driving.
The Met Office is forecasting snow and very cold weather over the weekend. All red warnings have now been lifted, but amber and yellow severe weather warnings are still in place for many parts of the UK.
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Train services across the country have been disrupted by the wintry conditions. Check the National Rail website for the latest info.
On Friday, Virgin East Coast said that no trains would be operating between Newcastle and Scotland. It has lifted all ticket restrictions between today and Wednesday 7 March, so if you've booked a ticket between then and now, your ticket will be valid for travel on any Virgin Trains East Coast train.
On the west coast, Transpennine has also cancelled services between Preston and Scotland, and tickets booked for Friday 2 March can also be used on Saturday 3 March.
Here are the need-to-knows if your journey's affected:
- If my train's cancelled, can I get on another train? If your ticket is open, you can just get on the next train to your destination, assuming it's running. If your ticket is restricted, you can't get on the next train if yours is delayed; but if it's cancelled, you should be able to. Check with station staff to be safe.
- I don't want to travel because of a delay. Can I get a refund? Usually the answer's yes, though it's more complex if you have a season ticket (for more on this, see Season ticket claims).
- I arrived late – can I get compensation? The rules are not universal for all train firms, but in most cases you can claim for a delay of 30+ minutes (or even 15+ in some cases), regardless of the reason. You can usually get at least 50% of your fare back.
- If an emergency train timetable is in place, can I still claim compensation if I'm delayed? Some train firms are putting emergency timetables in place – if so, it may affect what you can claim.
If you book ahead of time and then an emergency timetable with reduced services is put in place, you can choose not to travel at all and claim a full refund.
However, if you DO decide to travel and are then delayed, the compensation you're due will be based on the emergency timetable not the usual timetable. If an emergency timetable is already in place when you buy a ticket on the day, then your usual compensation rights apply – but delays will be measured against the emergency timetable not the usual timetable.
For lots more, including how to claim and the rules if you miss a connection, see our Train Delays guide.
What if I can't get to an event/miss a flight as a result of disruption?
It's likely the travel disruption may cause inconvenience for many – eg, Luke emailed to ask: "If we are unable to travel to a theatre show in London do we have any rights to be able to cancel and gain a refund?"
Unfortunately the National Rail Conditions of Carriage explicitly state that in the event of train delay or cancellation, firms WON'T cover any consequential losses – for example, if you miss an event such as a show, or a flight. Your best bet is to check the cancellation policy of whatever's affected – for example, your theatre tickets. It may also be worth phoning up to explain and seeing what it can offer you.
With missed flights you might be able to get compensation from your travel insurance provider, though check as different policies have different rules. You will need to show you allowed a reasonable amount of time for your journey to meet the flight.
Most airports are now starting to run some flights, after closures earlier this week. Glasgow Airport and Edinburgh Airport said a large number of flights were cancelled on Friday 2 March.
If you're flying from any airport, check the status of your flight before you travel to the airport. Easyjet says it isn't operating flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow or Bristol Airports on Friday 2 March, while Jet2 for example says it is operational at all airports.
British Airways says if you are due to travel on any short-haul service between now and the end of Tuesday 6 March, you can rebook your flight, regardless of whether your flight is currently showing as operating or not. You can rebook for travel up to the end of Wednesday 21 March.
In addition, if you are due to travel on a long-haul service to or from London Heathrow up to the end of Sunday 4 March, you can rebook regardless of whether your flight's currently showing as operating. Again, you can rebook for travel up to the end of Wednesday 21 March.
When a flight is cancelled, however long before it was due to take off, and regardless of the cause, under EU rules you have a right to choose between:
- A full refund. This includes money back for both legs if you have booked a return ticket and either of your legs is cancelled.
- An alternative flight. If you still want to travel, your airline must find an alternative flight. Depending on the passenger's preference, this has to be a) at the earliest opportunity, or b) at the passenger's leisure, subject to the availability of seats.
If you choose to be re-routed or if your departure is delayed by more than two hours, airlines also have to provide assistance such as food, phone calls and accommodation, where appropriate, to passengers, regardless of what caused the cancellation.
Under EU rule 261/2004 it's often possible to claim additional compensation of up to £530 per person for delayed or cancelled flights. However, this only applies when the delay or cancellation is due to something within the airline's control – which wouldn't usually include bad weather.
As a result, you're unlikely to be able to claim compensation on top of your refund or alternative flight, though there are a few cases where you may wish to pursue a claim, for example if the snow was widely predicted. See our Flight Delays and Cancellations guide for full info.
Many have been struggling to get into work due to the travel disruption. See our Snow Day Rights guide for full help, but in brief:
If I can't get to work because of the snow, will my pay be docked? If your workplace is open and you can't get in, make sure you inform your employers as soon as possible. It employer DOESN'T necessarily have to pay you in this situation, according to the conciliation service ACAS – so you may be forced to take unpaid leave.
The best thing is to try to come to an alternative agreement with your employer, such as working from home or changing your hours. It's also worth checking if your employer has an 'adverse weather' policy.
- Will I have to take time off as holiday if I can't get to work? Your employer may be able to ask you to take time off as holiday – check your employment contract to see if there are any specific rules. If not, as a rule of thumb the Government says it has to give you notice of at least twice as long as it wants you to take off. So if it wants you to take a day as holiday, you'd need two days' notice.
- Do I have to walk to work in the snow? It all depends on what's reasonable. If you usually drive but can't use your car in the snow and you are able to walk to work easily you might want to do that instead. Remember, if you don't make it in your employer doesn't necessarily have to pay you.
- What if I CAN get in but my workplace is closed? Check your contract to see if there's any special provision for this – for example, you may be required to work from home. But usually you WILL be entitled to pay if you can make it into work but it's not open.
If your employer provides your transport and this is cancelled because of bad weather or travel disruption, and you are otherwise ready, willing and available to work, you should be paid for any working time missed.
See this guidance from ACAS for more information.
Can I legally leave work if it isn't warm enough?
Unfortunately, the law on minimum temperatures at work is quite woolly.
Temperatures in the workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius, or, if the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. But this is only for guidance, there's no legal minimum.
According to health and safety law, employers are obliged to keep the heating at a "comfortable" level, so if you think the heating at your work isn't, your first step would be to speak to your employer. As a last resort you could also try complaining to the Health and Safety Executive – but don't assume you can just walk out of work because it's too chilly.
Hundreds of schools across the UK have been closed this week.
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 – the Government says this should be agreed with your employer. ACAS says in emergency situations you can take unpaid leave to look after your child, and extreme weather may count as one of these situations.
If your electricity supply is off for more than 24 hours you could be due compensation, though it will depend on how the storm is 'graded' by energy regulator Ofgem. This grading is determined by how many major faults a firm had in a 24-hour period. It can take up to two weeks following the event for the weather classification to be submitted to Ofgem by your local grid, but here are the compensation levels:
- Most severe 'category 1' storm – you'll be eligible for £70 compensation if you have no energy supply for a continuous 24-hour period. A further £70 will be paid for each additional period of 12 hours in which supply is not restored, up to a total of £700.
- 'Category 2' storm – you'll be eligible for £70 compensation if you have no energy supply for a continuous 48-hour period, plus £70 for every further 12 hours up to a total of £700.
The compensation won't be paid until your supply has been restored. To make a claim, you'll need to contact your electricity company within three months of getting your supply back.
Many people are reporting that their online grocery deliveries have been delayed or cancelled due to dangerous conditions for delivery drivers.
Tesco says that it's contacting affected customers, and that if your delivery's cancelled you can either reschedule or get a full refund. Sainsbury's also confirmed that deliveries have been disrupted.
Morrisons has told us that it is "having difficulties" delivering in certain areas because of weather conditions, but it will contact you by email, text, call or through the Morrisons app if there are problems with your delivery. Asda says it is "working hard" to deliver as many orders as possible.
You are unlikely to be able to get compensation if a delivery fails, as most retailers cover themselves from having to pay out in their terms and conditions.
Tesco for example states: "Whilst we make every effort to deliver all your goods in the agreed time, we will not be liable if we fail to do so in part or in full due to circumstances beyond our control."
Asda says it "cannot accept liability if we deliver the goods outside of this slot or don't deliver all or any of the goods in your order", Morrisons says it "cannot always guarantee" that it will deliver during your agreed delivery time slot, and Sainsbury's says it is "under no liability for any delay or failure to deliver the goods of services within estimated timescales."
Yes – in many areas these payments HAVE now been triggered.
During prolonged periods of cold weather, the state issues a 'cold weather payment' to older people and those on certain benefits, to help cover energy costs.
It applies if the average temperature in your area is, or is forecast to be, 0°C or below for seven days in a row between 1 November and 31 March. You can check if the cold weather payment will be made in your area using the Government's postcode checker.
You'll get £25 for every seven consecutive days of cold weather, and it'll be automatically paid into the same account your benefits are paid into, within 14 working days of the cold spell. You don't need to apply for the help but you can check the full eligibility criteria.
Red weather warnings have been in place in parts of Scotland, Wales and England. Some rumours circulating online suggest that if you drive during a red weather warning, you're automatically not covered by your car insurance – but this ISN'T true.
We're aware of a fake news story being shared on Twitter. We would like to assure all of our customers that they are covered by their insurance policy during red and amber alerts. People should be careful when the weather is so extreme and only drive if really necessary.— Direct Line (@DirectLine_UK) February 28, 2018
A red warning doesn't mean you can't use your vehicle – however, if the emergency services or local authorities identify specific routes or areas as dangerous you should avoid these. If you ignore the advice of the emergency services or local authorities, then insurers can refuse to deal with any accidental damage claims.
But the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has told us that whilst you should follow the advice of emergency services, and in areas with warnings, only travel when absolutely necessary, you are NOT expected to study travel websites before you drive to check which roads have warnings in place. If you are worried, it says the best people to ring would be your insurer.
It also added that the main reason insurance would be invalidated would be if you drive recklessly, but this would also apply if no weather warning was in place.
What should I do if there is a power cut?
Lots of social media users, including some in south east London, and the South West of England, have been reporting power cuts this afternoon.
If you experience a power cut, the best thing to do is call 105.
Distribution network operators (DNOs) maintain the power lines that connect your home or business to our network. When you call 105, you will be put through to your DNO.
Additional reporting by the Press Association.