A Status Orange warning has been issued covering the east of Ireland and is reported to hit from 3pm 27 February until 11am 28 February. A Status Yellow snow and ice warning has been issued for many counties in Leinster and Munster and will hit from 6pm 27 February until 11am 28 February. Met Éireann has also reported that there will be heavy snow throughout the country this week and will issue further updates as the week progresses.
While the impact of the weather event this week is not expected to be as sudden as the impact from Storm Ophelia which hit Ireland in October 2017, the dangerous driving and commuting conditions may mean that employees are unable to travel to work and may also mean that employers will have to close businesses.
There is no legal provision in Ireland that deals with employee rights to pay for days missed at work due to adverse weather conditions. Strictly speaking, if a business remains open this week and employees cannot travel to work or have to remain at home due to school closures, there is no obligation on employers to pay employees for days missed at work. However, this is subject to custom and practice in each business and also subject to any provision in employment contracts and policies. The lessons learned from closures during Storm Ophelia should be carefully considered before implementing any plans this week.
Options for Employers
If the business closes this week, the general advice in Ireland is to pay employees as normal. If the business remains open but employees are unable to get to work, options for employees include; remote working, taking days from annual leave or making up for it at a later date. As stated above, there is no strict legal obligation to pay employees in these circumstances but many employers will consider these options and whether to pay employees taking into account their safety and welfare.
The safety and welfare of employees should be the utmost priority for employers this week. Employers should carefully consider the plan they implemented during Storm Ophelia and lessons learned from that experience, consider any relevant employment policies and custom and practice for similar events in the past and then plan for the week taking account of Met Éireann updates and employee safety and welfare. Once a plan is established this should be communicated clearly to employees outlining the position on pay and the possibility to work from home together with any relevant employment policies.
Although not relevant to the storms this week, it is worth noting that a private members' Bill entitled the Extreme Weather (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2018 was presented to the Dáil earlier this month and if enacted it may provide statutory clarification as to the rights and obligations of employers and employees in the event of a Status Red severe weather warning in the future.