Do I Need To Pay Absent Employees On A Snow Day?

Year Published: 2018

The bad weather has hit us hard in the form of heavy snow, courtesy of the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, with road and school closures resulting in employees being unable to make it into work. But what does that mean for businesses whose employees can’t make it into work because of bad weather or a snow day?

This leaves businesses in the dilemma of, when should and when shouldn’t you pay an employee if they are unable to make it into work due to bad weather?

One of the basic principles of the employment relationship is that an employer is under a duty to provide an employee with work and an employee is under a duty to perform the work.

In its most simple form, if an employee cannot make it into work they are not entitled to be paid, provided there is nothing to the contrary in their employment contract or an employee handbook.

That said, factors such as; if an employee is absent to look after a dependent, or you have chosen to close the business because of bad weather or a snow day, do affect if an employee should be paid.

Karen Barker, Employment Law & HR Partner at SAS Daniels

Karen Barker, Employment Law & HR Partner

Karen Barker, Head of Employment Law and HR at SAS Daniels, explains: “Essentially, if the weather prevents an employee from getting into work then they haven’t earned a wage for that day, but there are exceptions.”

“The first being that if you, as the employer, chooses to close the workplace, then you aren’t complying with the contractual obligation to provide employees with work. Therefore, you can choose to close but employees must still be paid.”

Another common situation that businesses see with heavy snowfall or treacherous icy weather, is employees unable to work because schools and nurseries have closed, and so they have a dependent to look after.

“In this situation, employees do have a right to take a reasonable amount of leave to deal with a family emergency, but this leave is usually specified as unpaid leave. A sudden absence due to bad weather or a snow day would qualify as a satisfactory reason to take this leave. This also applies to carers needing to look after an adult dependent.”

“It’s important as an employer to remember that the way these situations are handled is crucial to a good working relationship with staff. Employees need to be treated fairly, but also equally and getting this balance right is important.”

“An employer can choose to take a benevolent view and pay employees even in they couldn’t make it in during bad weather, but this can anger those that have battled the elements to make it in, or arranged last-minute childcare to still come in.”

“Therefore, any decision should be made on a case-by-case basis and take every employee into account. Options could include; paying absent employees but only with an agreement that time would be made up, allowing an employee to take it as a paid holiday providing they have the relevant entitlement, or making suitable provisions to allow employees to either make it into the workplace safely, or temporarily work elsewhere, such as from home or from another site.”

“The most important point is to have clear communication with staff about what options they have. If you deduct from their wages and they aren’t aware they it’s going to cause unrest which can be easily avoided.”

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