Snow day - your employee and travel rights

Spring may be just around the corner, but the snow seems to keep on coming - and the latest bout of wintry weather last weekend caused some serious disruption. To help, we've answered some of your most common questions on your rights when it snows.

If I can't get to work because of the snow, will my pay be docked? Let's get the bad news out of the way first: if your workplace is open and you can't get in, your employer DOESN'T necessarily have to pay you, according to the conciliation service ACAS. So you may be forced to take unpaid leave.

If you're unable to get to work, the best thing is 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, which could grant you the right to paid leave, or to discretionary payments for travel disruption.

The best course of action is to plan ahead as much as possible and be sure to check your employer's policy.

Will I get paid if my work is shut? If your employer has to close your office and you don't usually work from home, your pay shouldn't be docked.

On the other hand, you might be asked to work from a different office or from home.

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 relatively easily you might want to do this instead. Remember, your employer doesn't necessarily have to pay you if you can't make it in.

If you live far away or the walk could be treacherous, your employer can't make you come in. But because you may not get paid if you don't turn up, it's worth speaking to your boss and trying to come to an alternative arrangement.

Will I have to take it as holiday if I can't get to work? That's a possibility, but only if you're given enough warning - so in practice this will only apply if there's really major disruption which is expected to last several days.

The first thing to check is your employment contract to see whether any rule about this has been put in place.

If not and you can't get to work because of disruption as a general rule of thumb, your employer can ask to you take time off as holiday, but 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.

What if my child's school is shut? 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.

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. It says arrangements between employers and employees will vary on a case-by-case basis though.

Again, plan ahead as much as possible and contact your employer to check what it can do to help.

My train has been delayed or cancelled. What are my rights? Here are the main rules:

  • Can I get on another train? If your ticket is open, you can just get on the next train to your destination, assuming it is 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.

For lots more, including how to claim and the rules if you miss a connection, see our Train Delays guide.

What if I missed a flight because of a delay? 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've missed a flight.

But if train or road delays cause you to miss a flight, you may be able to get compensation from your travel insurance provider, though check first as different firms will have different rules. You will need to show you allowed a reasonable amount of time for your journey to meet the flight.

The Association of British Insurers says: "Some travel insurance policies may offer some cover for missed flights due to your journey to the airport being disrupted in certain circumstances, so check your travel policy."

My flight has been delayed or cancelled. What are my rights? 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 are 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 foreseeable and predicted. See our Flight Delays and Cancellations guide for full info.

I can't use a hotel or car hire booking as I can't get to my destination. What are my rights? First check if it's refundable, in which case contact the provider to get your money back.

If not, this is where travel insurance comes in, though there's no 'one-size-fits-all' answer as each travel insurance policy is different, so check with your insurer. See Consequential loss help for more.

What if I need to drive somewhere? Make sure you check local travel advice before you travel and plan your route accordingly.

Ideally if bad weather is forecast you'll be able to avoid travelling, but during winter it's always wise to ensure your car is fully prepared, such as having at least a 3mm tyre tread and stocking up on anti-freeze. See our Motoring MoneySaving guide for more information.

It's also worth making sure you have the breakdown cover you need, in case the worst should happen. See our Cheap Breakdown Cover guide for full info and our current top picks.