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With snow blizzards bombarding, we can expect more of the usual warnings from the police and other organisations about travel.  We will be reminded to consider whether or not any journeys are essential; and not to venture out on to the road unless it is safe and drivers are properly prepared.  The advice is of course absolutely correct and has to be issued.  The advice, however, always seems to be only aimed at individuals.  It Is down to the individual to decide if the roads are sufficiently safe to travel and it is the individual who must ensure that he or she is properly prepared.

But what about an employer?  What duties do they have to ensure that it is safe for their employees to travel to work and during the course of a working day?  And what will happen if an employer ignores their responsibility and their employee is injured?  Will the employee be able to obtain compensation from the employer?

There is no black and white answer to these questions, however the law is entirely clear that the duty of care that an employer owes to his employee does not start and stop at the workplace front door.  We also know that employers have a duty of care to protect their employees from issues beyond their control provided that the risk to the employee is sufficiently foreseeable.

Accordingly, there can be little doubt that it will be possible to bring claims in circumstances where an employer applies pressure on an employee to travel to work in circumstances where it is clearly unsafe to do so.  Thus, any responsible employer should have consideration to such a duty in their winter and adverse weather policies. 

In relation to employees who, as part of their duties, require to travel during their working day, the duty on employers will be higher still. 

There is a clear duty on employers not to expose their employees to risk and to reduce the risk to their employees that they may encounter in the course of their duties.  This means that there will be occasions where employers must direct employees to engage in other duties and not to travel in the course of their employment.

Finally, employers have a duty to properly train their employees and that duty applies as much to travelling in winter conditions as to anything else.  Just as an employer is required to train an employee to use equipment, there will be circumstances where an employer will have a duties to train an employee in how to drive in winter conditions.  This will depend upon the job and the employee’s duty but will certainly, in certain circumstances, go significantly beyond the level of training that the standard driving test regime provides. 

Accordingly, it will be seen that while adverse weather warnings may appear to be aimed at individuals but they will clearly impose legal obligations on employers too.   

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