Absence from Work Due to Bad Weather – Where Do Employees Stand?

With snow and ice covering parts of the UK at the moment (as well as flood warnings in some areas and an expectation of further wind and rain in the next few weeks), employees may have trouble making the journey into work. Others may be forced to miss work because of school closures or disruptions to their childcare arrangements. Employers may not be certain what rights employees have in these circumstances.

Whether or not employees are are entitled to be paid if they are absent from work will depend on the terms of their employment contracts. Normally, bad weather is not an excuse for missing work and can be treated in the same way as any other unauthorised absence.

However, it is advisable to take a flexible approach, depending on the circumstances. In many parts of the country, police have advised road users not to travel unless their journeys are absolutely necessary. It would therefore seem unwise to dock pay from employees who heed this advice and miss work because of the poor weather.

One option you could consider is whether some employees would be able to work from home. Alternatively, you could try to agree with the employee that they make up the hours missed, or take the absence as holiday. Making deductions from an employee’s pay in such circumstances is likely to damage the working relationship and could lead to a claim of unauthorised deductions from wages, so if you do decide to take such action, make sure you are entitled to do so.

If you have to close your premises because of the weather conditions, employees who are unable to work as a result are entitled to be paid.

It is important that employees know what to do in the event of bad weather, so having a formal policy in place is advisable. This will help to ensure that your approach is consistent: failing to treat all employees in the same way could give rise to discrimination claims. Employers should also take into account any circumstances caused by the weather which make it particularly difficult for disabled employees to make the journey into work.