Do I have to pay employees unable to get to work because of bad weather conditions?

Employers may be under no obligation to pay an employee if they fail to turn up for work or arrive late in adverse weather conditions (unless the employee’s contract of employment states otherwise). The first step is to check whether you have any contractual provision or policy dealing with non-attendance due to bad weather, which clarifies the circumstances in which employees will be paid.

If the employee's contract of employment or a relevant policy does not contain any provisions dealing with such a situation, the right to payment may depend on the type of employee.

Employees who are piece workers or hourly paid with no guaranteed hours of work are unlikely to have any right to be paid wages if they do not turn up. However, the position is less clear for salaried employees and it would be wise to seek legal advice before docking their wages for non-attendance.

In addition, employers should consider what has happened in the past. If employees have always been paid when unable to get into work because of bad weather then they could argue that it is an 'implied' term of their contract that they are paid.

You could also consider asking employees who have been unable to get to work to make up the time by working additional hours or extra days in return for still being paid for their absence. Another option is to seek to reach agreement with employees or their representatives that they take such days as holiday. This should be agreed in writing, but an exchange of emails should suffice.

If the weather is particularly bad employers could offer limited paid leave to all employees who have been unable to get into work (e.g. one or two days).

Ultimately, whatever an employer's decision is regarding whether or not payment should be made to their employees they will need to ensure that this is clearly communicated and is fairly and consistently applied.

How should I deal with employees who have used bad weather to avoid turning up for work?

If an Employer has suspicions that an employee is using the bad weather as an excuse for being late or having a day of work, then it may be able to treat this as a disciplinary matter.

It will depend on the circumstances of each case, but the Employer will need to investigate the matter in line with its Disciplinary Policy to try and establish whether or not there is a disciplinary case to answer. It will also be important to ensure that staff are treated consistently.

What if I have to close my business premises?

If an employer decides to close the workplace because of adverse weather then employees should be paid regardless of whether or not they tried to attend work.

Employers should, however, also consider alternative arrangements to enable employees to work, such as working from home or working from another office or site nearer their home.

School closures and other childcare issues

Adverse weather conditions can lead to school or nursery closures or the unavailability of other childcare arrangements, leaving some employees having to take time off to look after their children. Leave in these circumstances should be treated under the statutory right for employees to take reasonable time off to care for a dependent in an emergency. This leave is unpaid, unless the employee's contract of employment or any Company policy states that the time off is provided as paid leave. Employers cannot make employees in this situation use their paid holiday entitlement for the day(s) off instead.

How do I manage staff arriving late for work or wanting to leave work early because of poor weather?

It may be possible, during the adverse weather, to agree with employees a temporary change to their working hours, to avoid them having to travel when the weather is particularly bad. If this is agreed, you could again agree that employees will make the hours up another time, or will take the time as holiday (see above).

Employers should also be aware of potential health and safety issues (see below), and as a result should not force employees to attend or stay at work if official travel advice states that they should not be travelling or that adverse weather is expected.

Employers could consider, as a matter of good industrial relations, making payments to staff that have made genuine and reasonable efforts to get to work, even if they arrive late or have to leave early, taking into account the travelling distance involved, weather conditions, health of the employee, availability of public transport and the nature of the employee's duties.

What Health and Safety issues do I need to consider?

Employers have a duty of care concerning the health and safety of their employees.

If the official weather or transport advice is to stay at home unless the journey is essential, then Employers should avoid informing employees that they need to try and get into work in spite of this warning.

An Employer could potentially be liable if an employee suffered an injury after being pressurised into travelling by car or foot in dangerous conditions.

It is necessary to try and find a balance between encouraging employees to make all reasonable efforts to get to work and not requiring them to take undue risks. Forcing employees into a situation where they feel they have no alternative but to travel to work or risk facing a deduction from pay and/or possible disciplinary action should be avoided.

Adverse weather policy

To help ensure the smooth running of your business, whatever the weather, it is worth introducing an 'adverse weather policy' so staff know what is expected of them when severe weather strikes. The policy should contain clear guidance on procedures for staff who are unable to make it in to work, pay, workplace closures, absence and leave and arrangements for working from home.