Snow joke for employers

The plummeting temperatures and frosty mixture of snow falls and ice formations continue to cause immense excitement and traditionm would suggest the only solution seems to sledge, make snowmen, and launch fatal snow balls at innocent passersby (perhaps just my street.)

However, the weather is not so exciting for those grownups amongst us as it undoubtedly causes severe inconvenience for parents, employees and employers.

Earlier this year, many employees were been unable to get into work through public transport cancellations and impassable roads, which, through no fault of their own, does cause a considerable strain for employers in already difficult economic times.

The main question employers will be asking is, ‘do I have to pay employees who cannot make it into work due to the weather?’ The answer is potentially no.

Employees are entitled to be paid for work that they have done. However, there is an argument that without express authority (e.g. in the contract of employment), to not pay an employee this may amount to an unlawful deduction of wages.

Therefore you should check employee’s contracts for any relevant provisions on payment when they do not attend work and if necessary, seek legal advice.

Employers are advised to think twice before not paying staff as to do this is almost certainly going to affect morale and cause resentment, particularly at a time when many private sector employees have taken a pay freeze or worse a reduction in pay / hours.

Moreover, the deduction could be open to challenge by staff. To deal with such complaints may prove costly and counter-productive for employers.

Employees are also entitled to unpaid time off for emergencies relating to dependents. Failure to have childcare arrangements in place is unlikely to amount to an emergency; however, a situation whereby a school announces its closure that morning may do so. This has been very common during this big freeze.

Other considerations:

  • Employers and employees may agree for employees to take time off as paid annual leave.
  • Employees may have the ability to work from home (however there are health and safety obligations on the employer in this respect and policies should be in place.)
  • Health and Safety Regulations place a duty of care on employers to their employees which could mean that it would be unwise to exert pressure on employees to attend work in dangerous conditions since an employer may be liable for any accidents and injuries sustained.

Employers should always check employee’s contracts of employment and ensure that they have appropriate policies and procedures in place. In any event, it is important that employers adopt a transparent, fair and consistent approach to these situations for all staff so that they are under no illusions as to the consequences for them.

Advice from the Employment team at Marsden Rawsthorn.