With the weather only getting colder and the glimpses of snow we’ve seen locally, we thought we would answer 5 commonly asked questions from employers on how the winter weather can impact the workplace.
You would be well within your legal rights as employers to refuse to pay an employee who did not come in to work because of weather such as snow or ice. This is due to the fact that the employee would not be fulfilling their contract by not coming in to work, thus the employer does not have to pay. This remains the case despite the reason for them not fulfilling their employment contract is something out of their control, like the weather. However, whilst this might be the legal side of things, common sense dictates a more pragmatic approach in a situation like this. By offering pay for days off due to things like the weather, staff morale, business reputation, and productivity may ultimately increase. This could have long term benefits financially, which may outweigh the fact that you would be paying an employee for not working on that day.
One option more prevalent than ever before is the option to work from home. If employees frequently work from home, then employers should encourage this during periods of bad weather. However, employers should be careful asking staff to do this especially if it is not included in their contract of employment. If it isn’t included, having an employee work at home will constitute a unilateral change of the contract of employment requiring consultation in advance with affected staff to obtain their agreement. Employers must consider the health and safety aspects of homeworking before turning immediately to this option in times of bad weather.
An employee taking paid annual leave on days when they can’t get to work because of bad weather may be an option. Nothing prevents an employer from suggesting that an employee does this, and some would prefer this to taking a day unpaid. On the other hand, there may be circumstances where this isn’t possible. For example, they may have other uses for their allocated holiday and not want to take it for the bad weather. If you as an employer are going to insist that employees take the time as holiday, you must give them the minimum statutory notice.
If your employees are able to and are working from home, they must receive their normal pay. If an employer decides to close the premises making some people unable to work at all, this is in effect a period of lay-off. In this instance, you should pay your employees their normal wage, unless there is a contractual provision allowing for unpaid lay-off, or the employees agree to being laid off without pay.
Employees have a statutory right to a reasonable amount of time off for dependants. Their right applies in the situation where unexpected disruptions mean the care arrangements for a dependant no longer stand. For example, bad weather meaning schools and nurseries are closed. An employee doing this, must give their employer a reason for the absence and the likely length of time off they need as soon as they can.