Better Than Zero calls out employers for endangering staff


Better than Zero Cartoon

Credit: Sheila Scott

Taylor Robertson

Better Than Zero have accused numerous employers of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act by forcing employees to attend work during the red weather warning.

The red alert, which was the first of its kind to be issued in Scotland due to snow, was in place across the central belt between 3pm on Wednesday 28 February and 10am on Thursday 1 March.

According to the Met Office website, a red warning means: “Extreme weather is expected. Red means you should take action now to keep yourself and others safe from the impact of the weather. Widespread damage, travel and power disruption and risk to life is likely. You must avoid dangerous areas and follow the advice of the emergency services and local authorities.”

People living in the affected areas were advised by police not to travel unless necessary, and most public transport services in Glasgow were cancelled.

Despite travel warnings, Better Than Zero reported a surge in messages from workers concerned about personal safety. A message posted on their Facebook page on Wednesday at 13:59 stated: “In the last 30 minutes we have been inundated with workers being forced to travel or walk miles in the snow to get to work. If this is you, email your employer with the following:

‘I am unable to attend work today due to the treacherous weather conditions which have made the roads unsafe to travel. According to the MET office there is now a Red weather warning in place for our area meaning that there is a “risk to life”. This has been reiterated by Police Scotland who have urged people not to travel. In line with the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees. To compel me to work today would be a breach of the aforementioned legislation as I may be putting my life in danger to travel to work.’”

Thereafter, Better Than Zero publicly confronted multiple companies including McDonald’s, M&S and Waitrose via Facebook and Twitter. A number of businesses responded to confirm that their stores had indeed closed, however it is unclear whether this was due to pressure from Better Than Zero or not.

On Thursday, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) also declared on Facebook, “STUC and its campaigns have been contacted by hundreds of workers about their employers’ actions and responses to the extreme weather over the past few days.”

They have also created a survey entitled “How cold is your boss?”, which they urge those affected to complete.

In addition, a Tesco employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke to The Glasgow Guardian about their experience:

“I phoned up my work a few hours before my shift to say I wouldn’t be in (this was before the red alert) and was told ‘it was to get better later on and to see how it was then’. Then after the red alert was announced my colleague was told by the same manager that ‘the snow was starting to melt’ despite all of the public transport being cancelled at that point and everyone’s cars snowed in.”