What to do when adverse weather affects work

Vast weather warnings across the UK have been announced as a blast of cold air from the east is set to bring snow to many parts of the country. Adverse weather, and the knock-on effects, can cause significant disruption to organisations' business operations and affect staffs' ability to safely travel to work.

Weather conditions, or the after effects 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. Where the organisation 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.

Staff 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 the organisation 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. This is a harsh stance to take, however, as the absence isn’t due to their actions and is likely to be because of travel or safety reasons. There are options that can be considered by the organisation. The first is to consider allowing employees to take short-notice annual leave for this period to ensure they are still receiving full pay, although they will use up some of their holiday entitlement. Other options include using banked lieu hours or making up the time at a later date.

With mobile technology, and the increased use of online systems and share files, organisations may consider utilising homeworking or remote working on a temporary basis. This ensures work is being completed during periods of bad weather whilst allowing employees to carry out work and receive their normal salary. There may need to be an assessment as to how the bad weather has affected necessary services, such as telephone lines or internet connections, before confirming this can take place.

Although 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 or schooling has 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 the organisation’s policy.

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