What are employers’ responsibilities when it snows?
We had numerous weather warnings and we knew snow was coming our way, but how many employers planned in advance? It’s likely that managers, heads of departments etc. within companies will have had numerous questions over the past few days over what to do if and when it snows, and what their rights are as employees. However, when it comes to being an employer, is there a snow day policy?
Key points to consider
- Employees are not automatically entitled to get paid if they’re unable to get to work due to bad weather. Check your own policy in preparation for the inevitable queries.
- Make sure your policy is clear and accessible: employees need to know what you expect from them in terms of getting to work.
- Flexibility: could employees work from home or change their hours temporarily?
- Plan ahead: communicate regularly with employees, be it sharing the forecast and/or reminding them of your policies. Misunderstandings often lead to conflict so try to get an internal plan sorted in advance.
What about pay?
If an employee cannot get to work because of bad weather, they must inform you as soon as possible. There is no automatic legal right to be paid for working time missed because of a snow day and any resulting travel disruption.
If you provide transport for employees which is then cancelled and an employee was otherwise available to work, they should be paid for any working time missed.
Check your policies and communicate them; some employers have special or discretionary arrangements for this type of situation.
If you have to close the business, you might want to consider whether employees can work from home or from another office, in which case they would be paid as normal.
Remember to be completely clear how the circumstances apply and anyone with employee status will usually have a right to a statutory guarantee payment. See here for more details.
What about employees with children who cannot go to school due to snow?
In an emergency situation involving a dependent, anyone with employee status has the right to take unpaid time off. This includes:
- If the schools close and an employee doesn’t have childcare
- When caring arrangements for a disabled relative are cancelled as a result of bad weather
- If a partner is seriously injured as a result of bad weather
Employees must communicate with their employer, stating the issue and the likely length of the absence. This time is unpaid unless a contract or policy says otherwise. You could agree that this time is taken as annual leave so the employee does not miss out on pay.
If you’re unsure whether your employees’ contracts are up-to-date and correct, it’s worth speaking to a specialist employment contract lawyer. Once signed, an employment contract is legally binding upon you as well as your employee.