Winter is most definitely upon us and we’re likely to see more and more transport issues for commuters with severe wintry showers and snow forecast to fall almost everywhere in the UK next week.
Bad weather can cause chaos in the workplace when staff are delayed or can’t get in at all. So what employment law regulations are in place when handling transport troubles in winter?
Here, Hannah Parsons (Principal Associate Solicitor at DAS Law) looks at what you need to know, whether you’re an employer or an employee.
If an employee can’t get to work
There is no law which says employees who can’t get to work due to travel disruption or adverse weather conditions must be paid. Of course, it may say in their employment contract that they will be paid under these circumstances, in which case employers must honour this.
It is usually not possible (or advisable) to force an employee to use up annual leave for any days they miss due to travel issues, although some employees may wish to nominate a day as annual leave rather than not receiving any payment for it.
While it is legal not to pay staff who are unable to get into work (subject to what is written within their contract), as an employer it is usually best to be flexible in these situations and consider in each case whether or not to pay employees in these circumstances. Bad weather is an obstacle which is outside of anyone’s control and it is inadvisable to create incentives for employees to risk their safety attempting to get to work in poor conditions.
Sometimes, an employee may say they cannot come to work due to school closures forcing them to stay at home and look after their children. If the school was closed at short notice, this would be likely to constitute an emergency relating to a dependent, in which case they would be entitled to a time off to arrange care for their children. This type of leave does not have to be paid, although an employer may choose to have a different policy.
If disciplinary issues arise due to an employee being unable to get to work (for example, if it is part of a similar pattern of non-attendance or you suspect they simply chose not to come in), it is important to follow a fair procedure when tackling the issue, as you would with any disciplinary matter.
If the office is closed
If a place of work has been closed because it is inaccessible, or not enough staff are able to make it in, employers should usually still pay employees for that day.
Withholding pay when employees are unable to work through no fault of their own could be an unauthorised deduction from wages or a serious breach of their contract of employment. In those circumstances, employees may be able to bring a legal claim against the company for non-payment of the wages and any losses.
Some employment contracts do however contain a temporary ‘lay-off’ clause – if this is the case, employers can refuse to give full pay to staff for a limited time and for days when the workplace is not open.
As travel disruption is likely to occur reliably year after year, it is recommended that businesses put a policy in place covering what is expected of employees if the weather prevents them from getting to work. This will ensure that there is no confusion regarding non-attendance and how it will be treated during bad weather.
If you are an employer and your business suffers particularly from widespread travel issues or is particularly exposed in poor weather conditions, you may wish to consider a policy of allowing working from home or other off-site alternatives if the nature of the work allows it.
Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created