Employers have various options to consider when deciding how to treat the periods of time when employees are unavailable for work due to extreme weather or other natural events.
The company’s approach should ideally be clarified beforehand in a policy or, in the absence of one, discussed with the employees as the situation arises. It is critical that managers are urgently informed of the organisation’s position, so that consistency operates.
The importance of having an up to date emergency weather policy either in the company handbook or employment contracts cannot be over emphasised.
The following points should be considered for the policy:
- Where an employee has the capacity to carry out his or her work from home for the duration of the disruption, this should be agreed with his or her line manager. This will not be feasible for a number of roles where the employee’s presence is required.
- Where an employee cannot attend and cannot carry out his or her normal duties, the options of annual leave or unpaid time off should be presented. Daily approval of this should be required.
- Where employees arrive late or leave early, whilst some flexibility may be provided, employers may need to consider paid leave where the employees will work up the time missed at a later date, preferably within one month of the occurrence. This is usually more feasible in companies that already operate a flexi-time system. Alternatively, the option of unpaid leave or annual leave (broken into hours) may be considered.
- Should an employee be on annual leave when a weather-related event occurs and is unable to return to work due to travel restrictions, employers may use a pragmatic approach and allow the employee to extend their annual leave or authorise unpaid leave during this time.
- In the case of schools or crèches closing, an emergency leave situation may result for some staff. This does not fall under the legal definition of force majeure leave. Where the employee is unable to make alternative arrangements, annual leave or unpaid leave could be considered on a case-by-case basis.
If an employee cannot come to work due to bad weather, do I have to pay them?
If the organisation is open for work and the employee cannot attend, then they are not entitled to payment for that day. You can give employees the option to take a holiday day as an alternative to unpaid leave, although you cannot force them to take a holiday. Having an ‘Exceptional leave policy’ in place is good practice to cover you in the event of these occurrences.
Employers can also look at alternatives for the employee, if appropriate:
· Can they work from home?
· Can they perform their duties on an alternative day?
If our place of work is closed due to bad weather, do I have to pay the employee?
Yes, if the employee is available for work then they are entitled to pay for this day, even if the premises are unable to open.