Business, Employment Law, HowarthsLaw, HR

Snow days! What are your rights as an employer if your employee cannot work due to adverse weather?

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It isn’t too often in the UK that we are hit by inclement weather, but when we are it can have a devastating impact on business due to the problems it can cause for employees who are due to report into work.
Whilst it is generally advisable to act sympathetically towards employees who cannot attend work due to the bad weather, the law is clear in terms of how many absences can be managed with employers being able to withhold pay from absent employees in a number of circumstances.
Workplace Closures
If the workplace is closed or you have instructed your staff not to attend work due to the weather then they should be paid for the absence. However, if the workplace is open and your employee has contacted you to say they can’t make it then you need to make a decision as a business about how you want to approach the matter.
As it’s your employees responsibility to get themselves to and from work, if they don’t attend work due to travel disruption the absence is technically unauthorised and therefore unpaid.
Employees who cannot attend due to childcare issues or, other dependant related issues
If the reason for an employees non-attendance is because childcare arrangements have fallen through, for example if schools or nurseries are closed then the staff member is entitled to take reasonable unpaid time off for dependants to make alternative arrangements for care or provide that care. As such, the absence is authorised but unpaid (unless you have a policy that allows for employees to be paid when they take this type of emergency leave). What amounts to ‘reasonable time off’ depends on each individual employees particular circumstances so ensure that you address is situation on a case by case basis.
Alternative Arrangements
Where an employee is concerned about losing pay for weather related absence, an employee may ask if they can take the day as annual leave at short notice and you are free to agree to this if you wish. In addition, you also have the discretion to allow the employees to work from home if possible or you can ask them to make up the time. The important thing is that you are consistent in your approach for all staff.
Unauthorised Absence
Employees who cannot make it into work are still obliged to report the absence to you in line with your normal absence reporting rules. Employees who fail to do this might have their absence record as unauthorised. Both breach of procedure and unauthorised absence can constitute disciplinary offences.
If you want to know more about your rights as an employee or, if you have any specific weather related employment query then please contact a member of our Employment Law Team on 01274 864 999 who would be happy to help.

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