Adverse weather in the form of gale force winds, heavy rain and icy conditions may cause disruption to employees, over the next few weeks.
What is the legal position when bad weather prevents an employee from getting to work?
- No legal right to paid time off
In most situations, there is no legal right for an employee to have paid time off if they are unable to get to work or are late for work due to travel disruptions and / or bad weather.
Limited exceptions to this rule exist, e.g. where travel time is classed as “working time” (which will not be discussed here).
- Good employer – employee communications will help
What happens in practice during periods of adverse weather is therefore down to each employer to decide and communicate to their staff.
Rather than await the chaos (warranted or otherwise) that bad weather brings, we would recommend that employers act now and consider implementing an Adverse Weather Policy.
- What should an adverse weather policy contain?
The policy should strike a balance between protecting the health and safety of the staff and ensuring the business continues to run as effectively as it can.
The policy could provide for the following types of problems:
Where employees’ journeys to work are delayed or have to be cancelled, weather may or may not be a factor.
Alternative working arrangements
It may be an option for employees to work from another, more easily-accessible, location or perhaps working from home is feasible.
Absences and pay
It is at the discretion of the employer whether or not employees are paid, if they are absent or late due to adverse weather conditions.
Employers can decide to treat absences in a number of different ways. For example –
- As annual leave (noting that a limited number of days’ leave could be used from the next leave year, if there is not enough annual leave remaining);
- As time off in lieu;
- Employees to make up the lost hours within a reasonable period;
- Unpaid leave (this should be referenced in the employee’s contract to avoid any claim that the deduction is unlawful).
If the employer decides to close the office due to severe weather, employees should be paid as normal. Whatever approach employers want to adopt, it should be made clear in the Adverse Weather Policy.
School closures / childcare issues
Those with dependants can take unpaid time off if there is a childcare emergency.
If a school closure is announced in advance – and no other childcare arrangements can be made in time – employees should be reminded that they can take unpaid time off to care for their child.
Training and disciplinary aspects
As with any policy, it should be communicated to the workforce and, if necessary, training should be provided to those who will be handling the day-to-day aspects of weather disruption.
If an employer has reason to believe that an employee is using the weather as a convenient excuse not to come in to work, the employer can choose to investigate the issue in the same way as any other potential disciplinary matter – and take disciplinary action if necessary.
Information via United Employment Lawyers