Inclement Weather

Posted 10/12/2019 : By: Lauren Johns

This time of year is full of excitement, anticipating the festivities and prospect of a New Year. However, this is often coupled with inclement weather and travel disruption. We would encourage you to plan for this eventuality as reports are suggesting that we could experience another record cold period in January and February 2020. 

The Practicalities

It is important that you put provisions in place for you to contact your employees and for them to be able to contact you in the event of any disruptions. It is also useful to let your employees know what your expectations may be during that time. This will of course depend on the nature of your business, but do they know that they can work from home if they need to? We will explore this in more detail later. Communication and planning will make a disruptive period a little smoother. It is also worth bearing in mind how your decisions at these times may have an impact on employee engagement.

We have put together some questions and answers to do with inclement weather and disruption below, but do let us know if you have any other queries related to this topic.

Do I have to pay my staff when they can’t get to work?

There is no automatic right or entitlement to pay where employees can’t get to work because of the weather and effectively they are not fulfilling the contract. So the decision here will usually be that the employee is not paid for this time, or they may request to use their holiday. However, can you make alternative arrangements such as working from home or working on a different project that allows them to not make the journey to work? Can they work from another location nearer to them that is safe to get to? If there are no alternatives, then the employer can make their decision on whether to allow holiday to be taken or class it as unpaid leave. If you do decide to pay staff, it is important to remain consistent and make it clear that this will not set a precedent for any future years. This is usually best covered off in a letter reiterating this for avoidance of doubt.

Do I have to pay my staff if they are late?

Unless there is employer-provided transport or the contract of employment states otherwise, there is usually no entitlement to pay for being late due to weather disruption. You may be able to deduct pay from them for this time but depending on your contract you need to be mindful of unlawful deduction of wages. Can they make up the time elsewhere?

What if they can get to work but the weather is really bad?

There needs to be a balance between being able to get to work, being safe and being comfortable to travel in those conditions. If it is unsafe for employees to travel and there are weather warnings in place it might be sensible to make a judgement call and not pressure employees in to making journeys that they are not comfortable with. Refer to the guidance on paying staff when they cannot get to work.

What happens if I close my business because of severe weather?

There are genuine occasions where you may have to close your business. If, due to bad weather, you as the employer have made the decision to close part or all of your business, you send them home early, you ask them to work reduced hours or if essential staff cannot get to work and therefore other employees are unable to work, they may be entitled to receive their normal pay.

There may be circumstances where a lay-off clause is contained within the employee’s contract which could be enforced but employees may be entitled to receive a statutory guarantee payment, depending on the circumstances.

Can I insist employees use their holiday?

Employees may request to use up some of their holiday entitlement rather than being unpaid which you can honour and authorise. However, where you are requesting holiday to be used, you need to  give twice as much notice as the leave you require them to take, e.g. 2 days’ notice for 1 day holiday.

What about overtime?

We have received queries from employers previously where they have closed their business and have asked employees to work overtime at other times which has attracted overtime rates of pay. Whether the employee would be entitled to overtime payments, will depend on what has been written into the employee’s contract. We can certainly assist here if you need any further guidance.

Can I get them to make up the time?

 You may receive requests from employees to be allowed to make up the time to avoid losing pay, or you may require the employees to make up lost time. In these circumstances, it is important to remember the Working Time Directive to ensure that people are getting adequate daily and weekly rest:

  • Where an employee works over 6 hours a day, they are entitled to a minimum 20-minute, uninterrupted break, during the working day.
  • There should be 11 hours rest between the end and start of a shift
  • Employees are entitled to take 1 day off in 7 working days, or 2 days’ off in 14 working days.

What if children’s schools are closed or other care commitments have fallen through?

You would treat this in the same way that you would for time off for a dependent. If there are no alternative arrangements available to the employee, then this time is usually unpaid.

If you have any questions or need to talk about the specifics of an issue, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our HR Consultants!

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