1. Do I have to pay employees who cannot get to work because of bad weather?
In principle, you can refuse to pay an employee who cannot get to work because of severe weather such as heavy snow and ice.
This is because an employee who is not working is not performing their contract of employment, and so you do not have to pay them.
However, this may result in lower morale and hardship on the part of your workforce as highlighted below.
Should I have a written policy on bad weather?
It is a good idea to make your workforce aware of the policy that will apply if they have difficulty getting to work because of bad weather.
The policy can be open ended enough to include disruptions caused by anything from natural disasters and severe weather to public transport strikes and terrorist attacks.
This is the case even if the employee’s non-appearance is out of their control, for example because of extreme weather conditions.
However, this is one of those employment scenarios where the letter of law says one thing, but common sense dictates a more practical and holistic approach.
The financial burden on your business of paying staff even though they are not working because of bad weather may be outweighed by the benefits.
Staff morale and your reputation as a good employer may benefit in the long run if you pay staff on a snow day.
2. What are my options if I need employees to work even though the weather is bad?
Many jobs can be done from home, and employees who frequently work at home should be encouraged to do so when bad weather approaches.
However, employers need to be careful about asking employees to work at home when a requirement to do so is not included in their contracts of employment.
If it is not, to require an employee to work at home in severe weather will constitute a unilateral variation of contracts of employment requiring consultation in advance with affected staff.
Employers should also consider the health and safety aspects of homeworking before imposing a homeworking requirement: some employees’ homes will simply not be set up to be turned into a temporary workplace.
3. Can employees take annual leave when they cannot get to work because of bad weather?
Health and safety laws do not provide a legal minimum workplace temperature. The temperature in all workplaces inside buildings must be “reasonable”.
However, the Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.
Where employees are unable to get to work because of bad weather, taking the time as paid annual leave may be an option.
There is nothing to stop you asking if employees would like to take extra holiday if they are unable to get to work.
Many employees will find taking paid holiday preferable to losing a day’s pay.
However, there may be circumstances in which this might not be possible. For example, where the employee wishes to keep their leave for a pre-booked holiday.
If you are going to insist that employees take the time as holiday, you must give them the minimum statutory notice.
4: If I close my workplace because of bad weather, do I have to pay my staff?
If employees are working from home, you must pay them their normal wages.
If an employee is unable to work because you have made the decision to close the premises, this will in effect be a period of lay-off.
You should pay your employees their usual wage, unless there is a contractual provision allowing for unpaid lay-off, or the employees agree to being laid off without pay.
5. I have employees with children at schools and nurseries that are closed because of the bad weather. Do I have to give them time off when they have no alternative childcare?
Employees have the statutory right to a reasonable period of unpaid time off for dependants.
The right applies where an employee needs to take time off work because of unexpected disruption to the care arrangements for a dependant.
The right to time off for dependants would obviously apply where schools or nurseries close because of bad weather.
An employee taking advantage of this right must inform you of the reason for the absence, and likely length of the absence, as soon as he or she can