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Travel disruption and getting to work

Getting to work

If you are having difficulty in getting to your place of work due to travel disruption or severe weather, contact your manager as soon as possible for advice. Your employer's policy should outline what to do.

If you are unable to get to work, you may be expected to take annual leave (if the correct notice is given or you agree) or make up time on a later date. There may also be other options to consider, such as coming in later if the weather is expected to improve or swapping shifts with those who are able to travel to work.

There is no legal requirement for your employer to pay you if you are unable to get to work and your workplace is open. However, your employer's policy may allow for it. Your employer should be clear if there will be any deduction to your pay. Please contact us if you are in a pay dispute with your employer.

We cannot offer support with a legal claim against a travel agent or airline because you have been unable to return to the UK from a trip abroad. However, you may wish to take advantage of the RCN's free legal advice scheme.

Please see our guidance on cancellation of work.

In an emergency involving a dependent, all employees have the right to take unpaid time off. However, check your contract and local policies as you might be entitled to paid time off. Please see our guidance on time off work for more information on this.

If there is no policy, rather than taking unpaid leave you could try to agree:

  • a period of annual leave
  • time flexing, or
  • ask to make up the time on your return to work.

Driving in extremely low temperatures and heavy snow

Your employer has a duty of care to you as an employee and should not place you at risk in any way. 

Your employer should have an adverse weather policy which outlines the action they will take to prepare for adverse weather conditions, which includes informing staff of weather alerts. There should be business continuity plans in place in readiness for severe weather including how emergency and essential care will be delivered. 

Managers should ensure that risk assessments for community/peripatetic work are reviewed and specific controls measures are communicated to you.

There are steps detailed below that you can do to ensure you are prepared for extreme low temperatures and heavy snow.

Planning your journey

  • Consider your route(s) and any areas that are likely to be exposed to the elements and more prone to hard frosts, ice and snow drifts
  • Ensure you keep up to date with weather reports and travel information before setting off and throughout your journey
  • For community/peripatetic workers it is good practice to ensure that you have someone in your team/ at your base who is aware of your diary plans, route and expected time of arrival for appointments.  You should check in when you arrive and when you leave appointments. You can also read our prioritising personal safety guidance
  • If the weather deteriorates significantly, you should consider whether it is safe for you to attempt to travel; contact your manager for advice or to discuss concerns and follow your local adverse weather policy and reporting arrangements. 

Allow plenty of time

During very cold conditions you should factor in extra time for things including:

  • de-icing your car windows and clearing your mirrors, lights and roof of any ice/snow before starting your journey
  • allow extra time for your journey.

Prepare your vehicle for winter weather and carry out vehicle checks

Driving can be a high risk activity during extreme weather. Your employer should have a policy on winter driving and emergency arrangements. Both you and your employer should follow any advice given by the police. 

Make sure to check everything is in working order including lights and indicators, check your tyres (consider the use of winter tyres especially if you live somewhere that is prone to very low temperatures and snow), check windscreen wipers are working and you have windscreen wash. 

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents also has helpful guidance.

Prepare for emergencies with a winter car kit

You can pack a winter care emergency kit:

  • Make sure you have additional warm clothes and waterproofs plus sturdy footwear
  • Carry water, a flask of hot drink and snacks
  • You should also have a hi-vis jacket, warning triangles and a shovel
  • Community/ peripatetic workers should be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment for your role in line with relevant activity/ job role risk assessments.

If the weather forecast shows a deterioration in weather conditions during your shift or when you are likely to finish your shift, you should discuss with your line manager in advance to agree appropriate arrangements.

For further driving advice see: 

A complete guide to safe driving in the snow | RAC Drive
5 tips for staying safe in snow - Met Office
Driving in snow | The AA


Use of volunteer 4x4s

In recent years, members of the public have been asked to volunteer their 4x4 vehicles to drive nursing and medical staff to work. Whilst this is admirable, strong consideration needs to be given to the safety of staff and your employer should have a policy/process in place to manage this.

You can:

  • ask who is driving and how is this person is known to staff
  • ask whether the driver has been DBS checked
  • ask if the driver's information has been checked e.g. current and valid driving licence, licence endorsements, motor insurance (for business use) and that the vehicle has a current MOT
  • ask that you are collected/returned only with another member of staff
  • refuse transport from a stranger
  • refuse if you feel unsafe.

If you are happy to accept the transport, it is a good idea to:

  • keep your mobile switched on and with you whilst in the vehicle
  • telephone someone from the vehicle to let them know you are leaving, tell them who is driving you and what time you are going to be home.

Ability to raise the alarm

If you are working alone (including travelling alone in the community or you don't have a colleague in immediate earshot), your employer should carry out a risk assessment. This should ensure you have an effective means of raising the alarm should you get into difficulties. Please see the RCN’s personal safety guidance.

If you are travelling to and from work in poor weather, it is a good idea to let someone know what time you are starting your journey and when you are expected to arrive at your destination. Tell them when you have arrived to let them know you are safe.

Working from home

If there is severe weather or travel disruption and your workplace is closed, your employer should not ask you to work from home unless it is specified in your contract. You must also be safe and able to do so. Consideration needs to be given to your working environment and access to equipment. 

Please also see cancellation of work.

Working at another workplace

Your employer should only ask you to go to another workplace if it is in your contract and if it is safe for you to do so. You can refuse if you have reasonable grounds and/or you feel that it is not safe to travel there. 

Contact us if you need advice. 

Read more on cancellation of work

ACAS has guidance on travel disruption and workplace issues over the winter months. has information on travel disruption and work

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust has information on personal safety

Find out how one of our Reps negotiated with her employer to secure special equipment to help members working in band weather

Your contract

Get answers to your contract questions including notice queries and whether your employer can change your contract.

Accident at work?

Read our advice on what to do in the aftermath of an injury at work.


Find answers to your questions about COVID-19 (coronavirus) and work.

Page last updated - 16/01/2024