UK Weather Warning: What does the law say on employee rights during flooding

Laura Kearsley

The UK is bracing for more rain this week (26 – 27 Nov) – with the Met Office issuing yellow weather warnings alerting people to expect delays on the roads and possible rail and air travel cancellations.

Disruption to transport – along with the possibility of businesses and schools being closed, and homes being damaged – as a result of the bad weather could leave some employees struggling to get to work. Laura Kearsley, Partner and Solicitor in the employment team at East Midlands-based law firm Nelsons, explains what the law says on workers’ rights during flooding.

I can’t get into work because of the floods. Does my employer have to pay me?

Put simply, no they do not. Employees are expected to make every reasonable effort to attend work despite any severe transport disruption or road closures. If this isn’t possible, the employer is entitled to regard such absence as unauthorised. An exception to this might be where the employer provides transport (e.g. a bus service) and this is cancelled.

Some employers may consider allowing employees to request the time off as annual leave or to work from home. However, it is important to remember your employer should not force or pressure you to unnecessarily attempt the journey if there are legitimate safety reasons why you should not travel.

My child’s school is closed – can I take the day off work?

You are entitled to take a reasonable amount of emergency unpaid time off work to take care of your kids if there is unexpected disruption in their normal care arrangements – the closure of a nursery or school would qualify as an emergency. However, this is not time off to look after the child, but to make alternative arrangements for their care instead.

Many employers are more flexible though in these circumstances and will allow employees to take holiday at short notice or, if appropriate, to work from home or make the time up.

My workplace has closed for the day because of the weather. Does my employer have to pay me?

Unless your contract has a provision allowing for unpaid lay-off, your boss will still have to pay you if your workplace is closed because of flooding; this also cannot be marked down as a holiday. However, once again, they can request you work from home if you are able to.

If you are on a zero hours contract or your employer has a contractual right to decline to offer you work at short notice, they may not have to pay you. Also, if there is advance notice of bad weather, the employer could give prior notice to require employees to take their holiday.

My home is flooded – what should I do about work?

You are not automatically entitled to be paid if you need to take time off work to deal with the damage caused by your home being flooded. It is at your employer’s discretion to continue to pay you – as long as you make the time up at a later date. Alternatively, your employer may request that you take the time off as paid annual leave, however they cannot force you to do this without your agreement.

If I’m on annual leave and my employer shuts my workplace for the day, do I still have to use my annual leave for that time, even though the business is shut?

This depends on your employer’s policy and whether employees are still expected to work while the business is shut. You may be able to “claim your holiday back” if everyone else is being given a day off, but if other colleagues are expected to work from home or continue to attend appointments, then it is less likely.

For more information on employee rights, please visit: or call 0800 024 1976.