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Severe Weather

Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

Note: this article was first written by our colleagues at Solve HR, before Solve HR joined Law At Work in March 2020. We have imported this...

It's that time of year where the UK is prone to experiencing periods of heavy snowfall. Our article aims to answer some of the more common questions on the impact of severe weather conditions. Do I have to pay employees who cannot get to work because of severe weather? In short, no, you are well within your rights to refuse to pay an employee who does not appear for work due to severe weather such as heavy snow. This is because an employee who is not working is not fulfilling their contract of employment, and so therefore, you don't have to pay them. That said, you may wish to take a reasonable approach and pay your staff on a 'snow day' to maintain staff morale and your reputation as a good employer. Do I really need a policy on severe weather? It is good practice to have a Severe Weather and Travel Disruption Policy in place to ensure that employees are aware of the rules and procedures that the Company adopts should they experience difficulties in attending work due to bad weather or disruption to travel. What can I do if I need employees to work even though the weather is bad? In the modern world of work, many jobs can be done from home, and employees who frequently work at home should be encouraged to do so when bad weather approaches. If you know that the weather is going to be bad, you might want to take a proactive approach and seek mutual agreement from staff to ensure the business can run effectively during these periods. You should be careful about asking employees to work at home when a requirement to do so is not included in their contracts of employment. To require an employee to work at home in severe weather will constitute a unilateral variation of his/her contract of employment requiring consultation in advance. You should also consider the implications of the employees' health and safety before imposing a homeworking requirement: some employees' homes will simply not be set up to be turned into a temporary workplace. Can employees take holidays when they cannot get to work because of bad weather? Where employees are unable to get to work because of bad weather, taking the time as a paid holiday may be an option. There is nothing to stop you asking the employee if they would like to take a holiday if they are unable to get to work. Many employees will find taking paid holiday preferable to losing a day's pay. However, there may be circumstances in which this might not be possible. For example, where the employee has used their holiday allowance or they wish to keep their holidays for a later date. If you are going to insist that employees take the time as holiday, you must provide them with the minimum statutory notice. For example, if you request an employee to take 2 days holiday, you must give then at least 4 days' advance notice. If I close my workplace because of bad weather, do I have to pay my staff? If an employee is unable to work because you have made the decision to close the premises, this will in effect be a period of lay-off, therefore, unless there is a contractual provision allowing for unpaid lay-off, you should pay your employees their normal wage. I have employees with children at schools and nurseries that are closed because of the severe weather. Do I have to give them time off when they have no childcare? Employees have the statutory right to a reasonable period of unpaid time off for dependants. This right applies where an employee needs to take time off work because of unexpected disruption to the care arrangements for a dependant. An employee taking advantage of this right must inform you of the reason for the absence, and likely length of the absence. If your business would benefit from a Severe Weather Policy, contact us at Solve. HR.

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