Down tools, it’s snowing!

Year Published: 2013

Living in the UK we are often subjected to adverse weather conditions and, quite frankly, have not yet learned how to cope with them. We have already seen snowfall, frost and freezing fog and there is worse still to come over the winter period.

Despite our inability to manage the weather, employers must be able to manage weather related absence.

When considering how to handle weather related absence the employer must remember that one of the basic principles of the employment relationship is that an employer is under a duty to provide work and the employee is under a duty to undertake that work.

What happens if an employee cannot attend work due to the weather?

If an employee cannot attend work they are not obliged to be paid unless anything in the handbook states to the contrary. As we have seen a number of years of inclement weather conditions, employers need to be aware of any custom and practice they may have set by making full salary payments in the past.

The effects of the weather could also see parents / guardians having to take some time off to provide care for their children or dependants where schools, nurseries and care facilities are closed. In such circumstances employers must remember that employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off to arrange for the care of a dependant in emergency situations. This time off is unpaid and each case should be considered individually.

What happens if an employer closes the workplace?

If the employer closes the workplace they are failing to comply with their duty to provide the employees with work and as a result should be prepared to pay the employees who were willing to attend work.

Alternatively, providing the contract allows, the employer can consider laying off the employees for the day in order to avoid making a payment in full.

Employees may also request this time as annual leave in order to be paid in full. This is perfectly fine providing that the employee has sufficient annual leave left.

Practical considerations

Employers should consider a number of ideas to work around the weather:

  • Working from home
  • Working from another site close to home
  • Buying back annual leave
  • Taking annual leave

Employers must be careful if they adopt an approach whereby all employees are paid as this could cause unrest amongst those who battled the elements to get to work against those who didn’t bother to get out of bed. Employers need to adopt a consistent approach and have a plan of action for the range of weather conditions.

For further information on policies or planning for extreme weather, please contact our Employment team.

This article has also been published on the Marketing Stockport website.

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