Workers' rights during extreme weather warnings

Joint statement from the Scottish Government and the STUC. 

The impact of the recent severe weather on businesses and workers was discussed at the First Minister’s six monthly meeting with the Scottish Trades Union Congress that took place yesterday.   

The weather over the past week has posed unprecedented challenges for employers and workers.

Speaking after the meeting First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Grahame Smith STUC General Secretary said:

“We are grateful to the people of Scotland who have coped tremendously well with the red weather warning and who heeded the advice not to travel. 

“However, the Scottish Government and the STUC share a real concern that some workers were placed at unnecessary risk through being compelled to travel to work or placed under threat of lost pay if they did not make it into work. 

“We are committed to doing everything within our current powers to encourage employers to be fair and flexible. That is why we have agreed to collaboratively develop a Fair Work charter focusing on the treatment of workers affected by severe weather or other emergencies. 

“The charter will set out Fair Work principles that employers should adopt in these circumstances. This will include a recognition that workers need an effective voice through a union to develop appropriate, flexible and fair approaches, and will highlight examples of employers and unions working flexibly and constructively.

“It is our view that legislation should be in place to protect the rights of workers during severe weather. As employment law is a reserved area, we will make this case to the UK Government. We will continue to press for the devolution of employment powers that would enable the Scottish Parliament to put the employment laws in place that are best suited to Scotland’s needs.”


These concerns have been evidenced by the STUC’s  survey of workers which highlights a lack of clarity on what is an essential service in adverse weather conditions. The survey results also point to a lack of knowledge about both employers’ responsibilities and workers’ rights in relation to time-off for childcare, being paid and having to take annual leave. It is clear that more needs to be done to help employers make fair and flexible plans for adverse weather and to ensure workers are aware of their rights.


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