Should Employees Be Paid If They Are Unable To Get To Work Due To Snow?

Wake Smith Solicitors 22 January 2015

Waking up to snow, whilst fun for some, is stressful for others if they find themselves unable to get to work. Are employees entitled to get paid if they are unable to attend work due to snow and other extreme weather conditions? This is a frequently asked questions, by both employers and employees at this time of year. In most circumstances, there is no legal right for an employee to be paid by their employer, if they are unable to attend work due to snow. Employees are obliged to attend the office unless they are sick, on holiday or on maternity leave etc. Therefore, the onus is on employees to get into work and this applies even in extreme weather conditions. If the workplace is open and employees cannot make it to work because they are 'snowed in' one view is that the employer is entitled to treat their absence as unauthorised and they are under no obligation to pay them. However, some employers may have contractual collective or implied terms and conditions through custom and practice which provides for payment in these circumstances. There has been some suggestion that this general approach could be challenged in the Courts and that employees have the right to be paid if the reason for their non-attendance is not their fault. However, in the absence of any right for payment and if there is no custom and practice for making such payments, it is likely to be difficult for an employee to make a strong legal case that they should be paid for this time. Of course, even if there is no right for payment for an employee unable to attend work due to snow, employers do have the discretion to make such a payment to an employee, should they wish to do so. If an employee's normal mode of transport is out of action due to severe weather disruption, the employer may wish to encourage employees to explore alternative means of transport. However, an employee should not feel under pressure to risk their safety to get to the office and so it may be sensible to consider whether employees could usefully work from home, until the weather situation has improved. If in fact working from home is not a viable option, an alternative may be to allow employees to take the time off as paid holiday on short notice. ACAS, in its travel disruption guide, suggests that 'a more flexible approach is taken to matters such as working and location may be effective, if possible. The handling of bad weather and travel disruption can be an opportunity for an employer to enhance staff morale and productivity by the way it is handled.' It is likely that most employers will look at taking a balanced approach. They will be concerned that paying all staff who say that they are unable to get to work is not without its risk as it may encourage some employees not to make the effort. As well as considering how those who cannot make it to work should be paid, many employers will also be concerned to ensure that those who do make it in have their efforts recognised. An employer should therefore assess whether overall paying employees who do not make it to the office would be in the best interests of the business. It could well be the case that the financial burden to the business of paying staff in these circumstances is either outweighed by the benefits that such a gesture would have on staff morale in the long term, especially if the snowfall is particularly heavy and it is very difficult to get to the workplace. It is useful to have an Adverse Weather and Travel Disruption Policy. This can be included in a Staff Handbook and it sets out what would happen if employees cannot make it to work because of extreme weather, public transport strikes or similar reasons. This will make your policy in the area clear to all concerned. Such a policy can be drafted by the Employment Team at Wake Smith LLP. For further information please contact Glenn Jaques at [email protected] or on 0114 2666660.

 

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