The ice and snow has caused widespread chaos across the country and meant thousands of school closures. But while a couple of days off school may spell sledging time for your kids; what does it mean if you're a working parent?
My kids' school is closed but my boss expects me at work....
Most parents will have been glued to their local radio station or school website for the latest decisions over school closures. And with many schools making 'on the day' decisions it can be hard to plan ahead with childcare arrangements if you've got to go to work.
While you're allowed time off work for 'emergency' situations; childcare issues don't usually count. 'I'm facing this right now', says Jenny, a classroom assistant and mum to two boys aged five and nine. 'The boys' school was shut for the first time yesterday but mine was open; so I had to ring my head and ask to bring my boys in with me'.
But depending on your job, taking your kids to work with you isn't always practical, which could mean having to use your 'holiday' leave to cover unexpected days off or risk losing a day's salary.
Will I get paid if I can't get to work?
'How you get to work isn't your employer's concern' says employment law expert Michael Scutt from Dale Langley, 'so if you don't turn up at work because there's six feet of snow outside; your boss can dock your pay'.
That's the worst case scenario; although in practice some companies will let you work from home or take 'holiday leave' instead of losing money. Check your contract to see if your company has a 'bad weather' policy. In this case they may help organise car shares, or suggest workers stay over, although 'there's no obligation on them to stump up for hotel bills', says Michael Scutt. So let's just hope you have a very generous boss who closes the office and pays everyone anyway!
Must I go in if the weather warnings are 'not to travel'?
While the advice on the TV news in many parts of the country is 'not to travel unless absolutely necessary'; this is 'advisory' rather than having any legal standing. However if despite these weather warnings your boss insists you walk five miles in the snow to get to work and you fall and injure yourself on the way; you could potentially have grounds to make a claim against them.
'Mumpreneurs' working from home
Anyone running a business from home may seem to have it easy right now, but as Nadine Hill knows only too well, trying to combine home working with the kids being off school can mean extra pressure. Both Nadine's daughter's school and her son's nursery are closed and it's meant she's been working evenings and late nights to get her work done. 'If my kids are off school it's not my client's problem and I've still got to keep up my 'professional' image'.
What happens if this bad weather continues?
Taking a couple of days off to enjoy the snow with the kids may be a welcome break from work, but what if the pressure's then on to get back to work?
'Rather than just ringing up saying you can't come in; show willing; take the initiative and ask to work from home or suggest a project you can take on', suggests workplace expert Siobhan Hamilton-Phillips.
Realistically a company is likely to get more from you in work hours if you're working at home than they will if you've spent three hours struggling in and then 'go sick' because you're exhausted.
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