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11th December 2015

Adverse Weather FAQs

Beautiful blue snowflake isolated on a white background. ElementWith severe floods causing havoc in parts of the UK and the possibility of snow and ice over the winter months, many employers will be faced with employees taking an impromptu day off work due to adverse weather conditions. But what is the legal position if employees can’t make it into work, or if work is closed?

Must employers pay employees who cannot get into work?

Unless there is a contractual right for employees to be paid if they cannot attend work, the general rule is that where they do not attend work, there is no obligation to pay them. The onus is on the employees to attend the workplace to carry out their duties.

Where employees are unable to attend work, employers may consider implementing the following arrangements:

  • Home-working, community-based working or allowing employees to work from alternative sites. Although home-working may be inappropriate in a care setting, employers with multiple sites may be able to ask employees to work from an alternative, more accessible location.
  • Allowing employees to come in late, paying them only for their hours of attendance, or making up their hours at the end of the day.
  • Paying employees as normal and allowing them to make up lost time at a later date.
  • Treating the day as unpaid leave.
  • Allowing employees to take a day’s paid annual leave.

Many employers now have policies which clarify what will happen if an employee is unable to attend work in severe weather conditions. Such policies are useful for informing employees about what is expected of them, the efforts they are expected to make to attend work and whether they can be expect to be paid for any weather-related absences. The QCS ‘Unable to Attend Workplace Policy and Procedure’ is an example of such a policy.

What happens in the event of a workplace closure?

Where employees are ready and willing to attend work but unable to carry out their duties due to a workplace closure, they are still entitled to be paid their normal wages.

However, if there is a lay-off clause in the employees’ contracts, or in the unlikely event that they agree to being temporarily laid off without pay, employers may treat the closure as a period of unpaid lay-off. In those circumstances, the employees would be eligible to receive a statutory guarantee payment (currently payable at a rate of £26.00 for each work-less day, for a maximum of 5 days).

Can employees take time off work if schools and nurseries are closed?

Yes. Employees have a statutory right to (unpaid) reasonable time off to make arrangements for their dependants in the event of an emergency. The closure of a nursery or school would qualify as an emergency for these purposes. Please note however, that this not a right to take time off to care for their dependants; it is a right to take time off to deal with the immediate emergency only.

The QCS ‘Family Leave Policy and Procedure’ provides further guidance on dependants leave.

What other considerations might there be?

Employers should always have regard to the health and safety of employees when presented with severe weather conditions. Additionally, if employees express concern about their health and safety in adverse weather conditions, employers must not subject them to a detriment as a result of having raised, or acted upon, any such concerns. This may give rise to an Employment Tribunal claim.

When arranging cover for absent employees, employers should be mindful of their obligations under the Working Time Regulations for any staff providing cover. Although the strict rules on rest periods under the Regulations are likely to be waived in such circumstances (and there are exceptions in respect of such breaks for certain care workers anyway), employers should ensure that adequate compensatory rest is provided and that their working hours do not present a health and safety risk.

Emma Newbould, Employment Partner, Napthens LLP – QCS Expert Employment Law Contributor

Topics: Human Resources

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