Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

With the ‘Beast from the East’ causing unprecedented snowfall and widespread disruption across the country, many employers may be wondering how to deal with those employees unable to make it into work.

Do employees have a right to be paid?

There is no statutory obligation to pay employees who are late or cannot make it into work due to bad weather, so any payment made will be at your discretion unless:

  • an employee has the right under their employment contract to be paid where they cannot get to work due to circumstances beyond their control;
  • there is a collective agreement in place with a trade union which requires payment in these circumstances;
  • you have a policy to pay or there is common practice in the industry of paying staff;
  • you close the workplace so employees can’t come in to work; or,
  • you cancel company-paid travel arrangements (such as a company mini-bus).

What alternative arrangements can I put in place?

You should be flexible when it comes to dealing with travel disruption and bad weather to maintain good employee relations and keep up staff morale. You may wish to consider allowing employees to:

  • start work later or finish earlier;
  • work at a different location or from home
  • allow employees to make up any lost working time at a later date;
  • switch to duties that can still be carried out;
  • swap shifts or work overtime; or,
  • take time off as annual leave.

Can we force employees to take annual leave?

It is possible to ask employees who are unable to attend work to take the day off as annual leave if they have sufficient holiday entitlement remaining.

To require employees to take annual leave, you would need to comply with the obligation to give notice. Unless the contract specifies a longer period, you must give at least double the length of notice of the annual leave you are asking the employee to take, so for one day’s annual leave you would need to give at least two days’ notice.

Can employees take time off to look after children?

The consequence of poor weather such as snow often means that schools are closed and parents are required to stay at home to look after their children, even if they would otherwise be able to make it into work.

Employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off necessary to deal with disrupted arrangements to look after children or other dependents.

Usually, parental leave is unpaid, so you may wish to agree to allow these employees to take the day as annual leave.

Adverse Weather and Travel Disruption Policy

You may wish to put in place an adverse weather and travel disruption policy in preparation for future weather events or disruption such as rail strikes. This should set out:

  • what steps employees are expected to take to get into work;
  • what employees should do if they are unable to get into work or are going to arrive late;
  • whether employees will be paid if they are unable to get to work;
  • when staff can leave early or start later;
  • what happens if the workplace will be closed;
  • how you will communicate with employees;
  • whether homeworking or alternative site working will be permitted and any other flexible working arrangements; and,
  • the consequences of unauthorised absence or failure to follow policy procedures.

For further information, please contact your usual contact in the Employment and Pensions team.

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