You only need to look at the floods prior to Christmas to be aware that employee absence due to bad weather (or other travel disruptions, such as industrial action by transport workers) is an increasing problem faced by employers.
Whenever there is absence due to bad weather we are always asked the question by employers “do I have to pay staff who are absent?”.
Now is an ideal time (before the next snow storm or downpour) to ensure that you have appropriate policies to clearly set out for your workforce what is expected of them.
According to Robert Tice, head of employment at Flint Bishop LLP, many businesses are still struggling with the tricky decision over whether to pay staff who are absent from work due to dangerous road conditions, school closures or heavy snow.
“Despite the problems of recent years, few employers have amended their contracts of employment or staff handbooks to take into account this scenario, which is occurring more and more often.
“Although conditions have been treacherous, and many people have legitimately been unable to make it to work, unless it is stipulated in their contract, employers are not obliged to pay their staff.
“As a general rule, if a place of work is open for business, then employers do not have to pay those employees who do not attend work due to travel difficulties or child care issues. However, if an employer makes the decision to close the business due to the weather, employees will usually be entitled to receive full pay unless the contract contains a temporary lay off clause.
“My advice would always be to put a formal adverse weather policy in place, so that employees will be aware of whether or not they will be paid if they are absent due events such as a ‘snow day’, flooding or industrial action by third parties. This will avoid any resentment from those employees who did make it into work (and perhaps struggled to do so) when others didn’t.
“In all cases, however, you should also consider balancing your legal obligations to staff, with encouraging good working relations, morale and maintaining health and safety.”
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