HR Expert: Severe Weather
My client had to close down work for two days last week due to impact of flooding caused by the severe weather. Do they have to pay staff who were scheduled to work on these days?

Given the amount of rain the UK has received over the last week there is little surprise that this has caused an issue for your client. Having to suspend business activities is never ideal and to compound things your client could have to pay staff their contractual hours regardless of this temporary closure.

Whether they are entitled to this pay will ultimately be determined by their contract of employment and your client should review these carefully. In the absence of any lay-off clause, your client will have no choice but to issue staff with full pay for any time they were contractually obliged to work last week. Likewise, staff who worked part of their arranged shift before being sent home should be paid for the full amount. Failing to pay staff in this situation could lead to claims for unlawful deductions and breach of contract.

Alternatively, if your client has a lay-off clause in place, which provides for reduced pay, then they will be able to exercise this and avoid paying staff for any time they were unable to work last week due to the unexpected closure. An employee can be laid off in this situation if there is no available work for them, allowing your client to save money in the process.

However, just because they are on lay-off doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to any money at all, as employees with at least one month’s service will be entitled to statutory guarantee pay in this situation. Statutory guarantee pay is calculated by multiplying the number of hours the employee would have worked on the day in question by their guaranteed hourly rate. Having said this, the amount is capped at a maximum of £29 per day and the payment is limited to 5 days within any rolling three-month period.

In summary, the existence of a lay-off clause is key in determining whether your client has to pay staff in this situation. If your client is interested in introducing a lay-off clause then they should consult with staff to agree a change to their terms and conditions in the event that the business has to close temporarily in the future.

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