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Bad Weather Disrupting Employee Attendance at Work?

Bridge Law Solicitors Limited, January 22nd 2019 Blog. Snow on Roads, Bad Weather, Travel Disruptions Causing Employee Absence. Employment Law for Businesses

Bridge Law Solicitors Limited, January 22nd 2019 Blog. Snow on Roads, Bad Weather, Travel Disruptions Causing Employee Absence. Employment Law for Businesses

A short guide on employer and employee rights and how to deal with bad weather disruptions in the workplace.

It’s that time of year every commuter dreads… when the bad winter weather arrives along with a whole host of chaotic travel disruptions. Dangerous if not impossible to drive on the roads to increased public transport delays, if not coming to a halt altogether! Although everyone would prefer to stay at home than participate in the miserable winter commute, the whole country and its businesses can’t just come to a halt because of a bit of snow can it?

For both employees and employers, it is important to know how to deal with bad weather causing delays or non-attendance at work.

Are Businesses Obliged to Give Employees Time Off Due to Extreme Weather Conditions?

As an employer, you understand the need to protect the health and safety of your employees.

However, any business owner knows bad weather also brings the stress and worry of how to keep a business running to meet the needs and demands of many stakeholders, including employees needing to be paid. Balancing these needs against employee health and safety can be a difficult decision for employers but knowing your options and rights helps.

When is a business obliged by law to close due to bad weather?

In most cases, employers aren’t obliged to close the business due to bad weather. There is however a duty to protect employees’ health and safety.  An employer may therefore choose to vary its usual arrangements, for example allowing working from home. In doing so, it may be beneficial to the employer as employees may feel more valued, helping motivation upon their return.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that employers  need to provide what is classed as a ‘reasonable’ temperature in indoor workplaces. Although the law doesn’t officially provide the minimum temperature, employers’ duties are to provide a reasonable temperature level dependent upon the working environment. It is advised temperatures should be at least 16°c or, 13°c in a physical job. Employers may wish to meet their duty to provide a reasonable temperature by allowing temporary heaters, altering dress codes to allow for warmer clothing or potentially allowing extra breaks to make hot drinks. You can read more about working temperatures here.

Employers should ensure they are taking extra care and consideration for vulnerable workers, for example employees that are pregnant or have a disability where they may face a considerably higher risk making the commute into work or may suffer more in colder working environments The employer should consider whether any reasonable adjustments can be made to assist the employee such as varying its dress code.

If the business closes, are employees still entitled to normal pay?

This depends on a number of factors such as what is written in the contract and handbook, the employer’s custom and practice and also whether there are any trade union collective agreements in place. We can of course advise further on this upon consideration of an employer’s individual circumstances.

Employee Absent or Delayed Getting into Work Due to Bad Weather-Related Issues affecting your business?

There are many problems that arise due to bad weather which can affect employee absenteeism, such as travel congestion and delays, breakdowns or issues with childcare.

One of the top questions asked during such circumstances, are employees still entitled to pay if they miss work or are delayed arriving due to bad weather conditions? The answer to this requires careful consideration of a number of factors.

It is necessary to consider the contract and handbook and also look at the employer’s custom and practice.  Where there is no contractual term, custom or practice to this effect, the basic position is that wages are not payable as employees who cannot get to work are not ready and willing to work and are therefore not entitled to be paid.  That said, the employer must be reasonable in its approach when considering this issue and we would advise that advice is sought in each case.

Are employees entitled to Have Time Off Without Pay: Deducting Paid Holiday, Having to Make Time Up or Working from Home in These Specific Circumstances?

In these cases, employers may allow a certain amount of absence as paid annual leave or time off in lieu. Employees have a right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with unexpected disruption of care provisions for dependents.

We advise employers to review their contracts and seek professional legal advice on any questions they may have regarding bad weather.

Plan Ahead to Minimize Disruption and Ensure Compliancy

Yes, the weather can be unpredictable, but you can still plan ahead to deal with all the issues that come with severe weather conditions. Here are our tips of how to plan ahead to avoid potential claims, and disruption to your business as much as possible.

  • Have a clear to understand Adverse Weather Policy and ensure this is communicated to all employees. This could include information on the procedures of when the business is to close, what to do relating to flexible working and making time up, taking time off as annual leave and more.
  • Ensure employees are aware of the procedures if they are unable to work or are going to be late for work, when they should let you know by and what alternative arrangements will be put in place.
  • Have a clear disciplinary procedure in place, allowing employers to take action against employees if you find that they use bad weather as an excuse to not work when they are able to.
  • Ensure unpaid leave and the adverse weather policy, or your procedures relating to flexible working are referenced in the employment contracts.

If you require further advice or assistance on how to deal with bad weather and employee absenteeism, your Adverse Weather Policies or ensuring your Employment Contracts are compliant with your standard Bad Weather procedures, please contact our employment law department who will be happy to help. 

Adverse Weather Policy, Employee Absenteeism, Employment Contracts, Employment Law, Employment Law for Business

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