The 'beast from the East' - what are your obligations as an employer?

By KMC Human Resources

02 Mar 2018

It may be the start of Spring but the 'beast from the East' is certainly making its presence felt, with many parts of the region experiencing heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures.

This is creating numerous issues for employers, from employees being unable to make it into their place of work, business premises being closed due to lack of power or childcare issues due to school closures. Here, we look at some of the issues bad weather can have on employers and provide some advice on how to tackle them.

What should I do if employees can’t make it into work because of the weather?

Under UK employment law, there is no legal responsibility for employers to pay staff that cannot attend work due to bad weather or any other ‘natural disaster’. However, most employers will exercise discretion in the event that employees are facing such difficulties, making allowances wherever possible.

Employers may wish to consider a temporary solution to allow the affected employee to continue to work – such as making provisions for working from home or alternative business premises if they are available.

Again, whilst there is no obligation upon employers to do so, most employers would be well placed to allow staff facing difficulties such as those experienced by inaccessibility due to heavy snowfall to take unpaid leave or use annual leave at short notice until conditions improve.

What about childcare issues due to school closures?

Employees have the right to take leave in order to care for dependants. This leave would be unpaid and is intended to deal with emergencies, such as a call from the school to say they are closing. Any leave agreed under this legislation should be reasonable in duration and is granted so that alternative arrangements for care can be put in place.

What should I do if I have to close my business?

Some rural businesses may find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to close due to access issues or power failure. In such circumstances, employers should be aware that they are still required to pay staff their wages in full throughout any period of closure. Also, all other rights afforded to employees, such as accrual of holidays, continue to apply. For more help and advice in relation to any aspect of employment law following the bad weather, please get in touch with us.

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