HR Expert: Adverse weather work
Vast weather warnings across the UK have been announced and a client is wondering how adverse weather, and the knock-on effects, can cause significant disruption to their business operations, as well as how it could affect employees’ ability to safely travel to work. Do they have to pay staff who can’t come into work due to adverse weather? 

Your client should first of all bear in mind that, due to current coronavirus restrictions across the UK, employees should be working from home if they can. Your client should be working to facilitate this where possible, in accordance with government guidance.

Relevant for other employees who cannot work from home

Weather conditions, or the aftereffects of extreme weather, may lead to a complete closure of the workplace or separate office locations. Unless there is a contractual right to be placed on unpaid lay off, staff are entitled to be paid in full for any hours they would have worked had the workplace been open. If your client chooses to open later or close earlier because of the weather conditions, employees are also entitled to be paid for this time even though they have carried out less work than normal.

If your client closes their business due to bad weather, they should not seek to place employees on furlough under the Job Retention Scheme unless they are eligible to do so. In other words, your client will need to show that they are experiencing a business downturn as a result of the pandemic; enforced closure due to weather will not be enough.

Employees are expected to make every reasonable effort to get to work, even if unable to arrive on time, unless they are notified in advance that they should not travel to work. Lateness does not have to be paid for, as normal, although your client may wish to agree with the employee to make up the time lost to ensure their pay is not docked.

Where staff are unable to make it in to work and their workplace is open for business, they are not entitled to be paid unless their contract says otherwise. Due to this being a harsh stance to take as the employee’s inability to turn up at work was likely due to travel or safety reasons, your client may wish to consider other options. The first is to consider allowing employees to take short-notice annual leave for this period to ensure they are still receiving full pay. Other options include using banked lieu hours or making up the time at a later date.

If the workplace remains open and the employee is able to travel to work, there may be circumstances where the employee is absent from work because their childcare arrangements have been disrupted by the weather. Employees have a statutory right to a reasonable amount of time off to deal with emergency situations involving dependants and this will cover the breakdown in care arrangements. This time off is usually unpaid, although this will depend on your client’s policy.

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