Severe weather disruptions and work: common queries asked by employers

Bad weather can have a serious impact on the workplace. I have answered some common questions asked by business owners and managers.

Q. Do I have to pay my staff who cannot get to work because of severe weather?
In principle, no you don’t if they do not turn up for work because of severe weather such as heavy snow. However, you may wish to consider staff morale and your reputation as a good employer before deciding to deduct pay. Are there alternatives? Could they make up the time elsewhere, for example. If the snow continues over several days, deducting pay may be an issue especially if the contract does not allow for it.

Q. What if I need staff to work but they cannot get into the workplace?
Consider alternatives. Can jobs be done from home? Does your business have another location that staff could safety get to instead?
Word of warning – be careful about asking staff to work from home or another temporary location if their contract of employment does not allow it.

Q. Where staff cannot get to work, can they take it as annual leave instead?
Staff should make every reasonable effect to get to work. However, if they cannot get to work due to severe weather, taking the time as paid annual leave may be an option. There is nothing stopping you from asking staff if they would prefer paid annual leave rather than loosing a day’s pay (or longer).

However, bear in mind that some staff may not be able to if they are using their paid leave for a holiday or have no holiday left.

If you are going to insist that employees take the time as holiday, remember you must give them sufficient notice as the length of the annual leave.

Q. Do I have to pay my staff if I close my workplace because of bad weather?
If you send your staff home, then you must pay them their normal wages.
If you close the workplace due to severe weather and therefore your staff are unable to attend work, this would in effect be a period of lay-off. Again, pay their normal wage unless there is a contractual provision for unpaid lay-off.

Q. I have staff with children at schools and nurseries that are closed because of the severe weather. Do I have to give them time off when they have no alternative childcare provision?
The statutory right to a reasonable period of unpaid time off for dependents applies where a member of staff needs to take time off work because of unexpected disruption to the care arrangements for a dependent. This would include the closure of schools and nurseries closed due to severe weather. However, this is time to make alternative childcare arrangements and after a reasonable time you can expect your member of staff to return to work.

A few other points to consider:
• The snow is out of everyone’s control. So is staff turn up late or not at all, consider taking a more lenient approach. If they have made every effort to get to work, consider alternative ways of handling pay and leave.
• When snow is forecast, you may wish to put out a notice to all staff with general guidance and advice.
• Whatever rules you put into place, treat all staff consistently.
• Remember your health and safety obligation to your staff.

I am happy to help with any other queries you may have – snow related or not!

Call me on 07483 253984 or email at claire.hill@hillhr.co.uk