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While we have had a mild winter so far, we’ve seen the havoc caused by floods. How should you deal with employees who say they are unable to get to work because of severe weather? Are you obliged to pay employees who are not able to attend work?
Travel disruption sometimes can’t be avoided and employers should plan ahead being as flexible and practical as possible in their approach. Clearly keeping an eye on weather forecasts is a good starting point. However ideally you should have a policy in place setting out what your expectations are and what your policy is when bad weather causes travel disruption.
Employees should be expected to make every effort to try to get to work and use alternative transport if available. However they should not be expected to take unnecessary risks which threaten their health and safety.Article continues below...
If they are unable to make it into work then there is no legal right to be paid unless you have created a contractual entitlement to do so. You can inadvertently create a right to be paid employees though as a result of always paying employees in the past and so a custom and practice could be created. You also need to be careful if you exercise your discretion to pay employees and ensure that any discretionary payments are made in a non-discriminatory way.
You could also state in your policy that the employee can take the time as paid leave out of their allowance or make up the time they miss. If you opt for the latter approach then you should set a deadline by which the extra time needs to be made up by.
Being able to facilitate remote working from home is another way to address this situation. Therefore having a flexible homeworking policy to deal with situations where employees may not be able to attend work represents good forward planning.
Travel chaos can also coincide with school closures. While employees are expected to explore alternative childcare arrangements, in emergency situations an employee is entitled by law to take unpaid time off to look after dependants.
You should have a policy which encourages staff to make every effort to attend work but where employees are genuinely not able to safely get into work and are unable to work remotely, pay is a matter of contractual entitlement or at your discretion. Where travel disruption due to severe weather is not that common, continuing to pay staff when they are genuinely unable to get into work can be a welcome morale boost.
If you need any further information on this or have any queries please contact Pam at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pam Loch is the Managing Director of niche employment law practice, Loch Employment Law, HR Advise Me and Loch Training.