Due to the ominous weather warnings in place across Ireland in preparation for ex-hurricane Ophelia's arrival, many businesses have asked employees to only attend work if it is safe for them to do so. As an alternative, employees have been invited to work from home, where possible. Other businesses have decided to close their premises entirely for the day as a precaution.
Are employers obliged to pay employees during this time?
Where employees are not required to attend at work, for example, because the employer has closed for the day or the employer asks them not to come in or to leave early, then employees should be paid as normal.
Where the employer’s business remains open and employees are unable to attend due to safety concerns or because they need to take care of children who are off school, then, strictly speaking and subject to any custom and practice in operation within the employer, there is no obligation on employers to pay employees during this time.
What options are open to employers where employees cannot make it into work?
Employers should act reasonably in these circumstances. If an employee cannot make it into work due to the extreme weather, employers may:
- continue to pay employees as normal;
- consider whether the employee can work from home;
- allow employees to take the missed time from their paid annual leave entitlement; or
- agree that employees can make up the missed time at a later date
Can employers discipline employees who don’t make it into work?
In circumstances where a red weather warning is in place across the entire country and individuals are strongly being advised to stay indoors for the day, in our view it could be deemed unreasonable for employers to discipline employees if they do not make it into work today.
Employers should take this opportunity to consider and decide their own internal policy in relation to employees who are unable to attend work. Employers should also clearly communicate this policy to all employees to ensure that there are no surprises on pay day.