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What if my employee cannot get to work due to the weather?

Date published: 27 February 2018


Employment law consultancy Peninsula has seen an increase in calls to its employment advice line as employers call in asking for urgent advice due to the heavy snow that brought major travel disruption to the UK.

My employees say they have tried everything possible to get into work.  All public transport has come to a halt, do I have to pay these employees?

Even though the employee’s absence is through no fault of their own, an employer has no obligation to pay an employee if he fails to turn up for work because the weather is bad, public transport is not running, or for the hours missed if he turns up late. Whilst there is no obligation, employers may wish to be accommodating in this circumstance and offer to let the employee make up the time on another day so they still get paid, or suggest that holiday is taken on that day.

I have decided to send employees home because business is so slow in this weather, do I have to pay them for the hours if they go early?

If it is your decision to send the employees home, either because you are closing the workplace part way through the day or keeping it open with skeleton staff, you would normally still have to pay the employees for the full day. For full days of closure, employees will still be entitled to full pay unless there is a provision in the contract of employment allowing for unpaid layoff.

Can I make employees take the time off as holiday if they are off due to the weather? 

Employers can make employees take holiday at times when it suits the business but only if certain advance notice requirements are met. To enforce a holiday, employers must give notice that is equal to twice the length of time that the employer wants to be taken off e.g. days days’ notice must be given for a one day holiday; 10 days’ notice must be given for five notice holiday. However, if the employee agrees to the employer’s suggestion to take short or no notice holiday, this is fine.

Do I need to give special dispensation to employees who have to look after their children if they are off school due to the weather?

No. Employees with children do not have a statutory right to be paid in the event that they have to have an emergency day off with their children, but contracts should be checked to see if there is a contractual right to this. Again, consideration could be given to making the time up, or agreeing a day of holiday.

Alternatively, if the shutdown of the school is the only reason for absence and otherwise the employee would have been able to get to work, the employee would be entitled to unpaid time off for dependants to look after the children.

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