Snow showers, blizzards and below freezing temperatures have gripped the UK for the best part of this week. The treacherous conditions have made it difficult for many businesses and organisations to operate and have caused havoc with the daily commute of many employees. These exceptional weather conditions are likely to cause unusual issues and difficulties for many. Below are some of the typical issues that employers may have to deal with in relation to employees during bad weather, together with good practice solutions.

Employee arrives late for work due to disruption with public transport caused by the weather.  

Solution: It is the employee’s responsibility to report to work on time and legally the employer only has to pay for the hours worked. However, during periods of adverse weather in order to maintain good employee relations it is sensible for an employer to exercise some flexibility when addressing this situation. The employer should discuss with the employee how they propose to make up the lost hours.

The employer is snowed in at home and unable to open the business.

Solution: If you are unable to open your business and the employees are willing and able to report for work, in these circumstances you are required to pay the staff their normal full pay (unless you have a lay-off clause in their written contracts of employment allowing for lay-off and guarantee payment). Before taking the decision to close the business consider whether any of your staff are able to safely open and operate the business without you being present.

Your employee calls and asks if they can take the day off as a snow day. 

Solution: There is no legal concept for a snow day. What the employee is asking for is a day’s annual leave. It is at the employer’s discretion as to whether the request will be granted but you should make it clear to the employee that the day will be deducted from their holiday entitlement. Before declining any requests for leave you should also consider whether the employee has indicated that their journey to work would be dangerous. You should not insist that your employee should report to work where they have raised genuine health and safety concerns.

All your employees arrive at work with the exception of one employee and they all use the same route.  

Solution: Before drawing any conclusions as to what you think may have happened, hold an investigation meeting with the employee and establish the facts. If the employee fails to offer any reasonable explanation for their absence from work, then consider instigating formal disciplinary procedures. 

Your employee arrives at work but part way through the day they ask to leave early because of school closure.

Solution: The employee should be allowed to leave work early to deal with this emergency as it is related to a dependent.  If the business remains open throughout the remainder of the day, the employer is not required to pay the employee for the hours which they are not at work.

Your employees report for work but during the shift the weather deteriorates and the MET office issue an amber warning. 

Solution: Monitor the situation and if it appears that public transport may stop running and the road conditions will become dangerous consider allowing employees to leave work early. Dependent on the type of business you have it might be an option to ask the employees to work from home. If, this is not possible discuss with the employees the arrangement for making up the time at a later date.  

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