HM Insights

Snow fair? What do employees and employers do when the weather turns wintry?

With snow forecast (and falling as I write this) many businesses and employees would do well to consider what steps they have or can put in place to deal with issues surrounding adverse weather. Weather forecasters have alluded to the fact that some extreme weather is on the way and employers should consider how to deal with the possibility of staff absence caused by adverse weather and how to maintain business continuity, particularly if a considerable number of employees are absent at the same time.

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Practical steps to reduce disruption from weather

There are a number of practical steps an employer may consider taking in order to reduce business disruption, avoid any confusion and minimise potential employment law claims. Employers may consider:

Implementing an adverse weather policy

Such a policy would ensure that both the employer and employees understand what is expected of them and will ensure consistency of approach.

Employers should allow for a degree of flexibility in their policy and should be sympathetic to those affected. In bouts of extreme conditions which are outside the control of the employer and employees, pragmatism is best advised.

Determining if employees will be paid for any absence from work due to severe weather disruption

Employees are not automatically entitled to pay if they are unable to get to work because of adverse weather. If an employee cannot get into work to carry out the job he/she is employed to do, the employer is not generally obliged to pay him/her.

However an employee is entitled to be paid if there is a contractual entitlement to pay in such circumstances; there is a collective agreement to pay or where employer policy or custom and practice dictates payment.

In these instances, as there is a right to pay, any deduction of pay may be an unlawful deduction from wages, giving the employee the right to bring a claim.

Where the employee’s absence is dealt with lawfully as authorised or special unpaid leave, an appropriate adjustment to the employee’s salary will be made, usually in the month following the absence.

Employee relations as deducting pay may adversely affect staff morale; however, paying employees who do not make it into work may cause resentment amongst those members of staff who do manage to struggle in

Even if there is no legal requirement to pay employees in respect of a period of absence from work caused by adverse weather, an employer may choose to do so for reasons such as avoiding the negative impact that deducting wages could have on employee relations and morale. Equally, organisations may receive bad publicity, particularly if disgruntled employees react negatively to the deduction of wages

Conversely, if all employees are paid, even those who do not get into work, this could cause resentment amongst those staff who struggled and made it into work, particularly if they think other colleagues made no effort to attend and simply exploited the employer. This can be alleviated if the employer has a policy which sets out exactly what is expected of staff in terms of attempting to get to work.

That said employees should take steps to ensure that they can also get to work. Where that is not possible employees may consider taking annual leave or reaching an agreement with their employer to make up time at a later date.

Caring for dependents

For those employees with dependents it is important to remember that they are entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off during working hours to care for dependents. The purpose of time off for dependents is to deal with emergencies and is not to allow the employee to undertake the provision of care over a lengthy period. This statutory right is unpaid.

Pragmatism and common sense is key

There are no hard and fast answers as to how to deal with adverse weather but careful management is needed to ensure that staff are treated fairly and that business needs are respected.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact one of the employment team.

Get in touch

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised by this article, please get in touch with a member of our employment law team.