The recent regularity of our winter snowfall ought mean that our infrastructure is increasingly prepared each time it happens. Although we may live in hope, most of us are not surprised when our local roads and railways grind to a halt every time the weather maps turn white.
Something that might remain surprising to many though is what rights employees may or may not have if they are absent due to snow. Importantly, there is no general obligation on employers to pay employees who cannot get to work because of bad weather.
The Employment Relationship
At the heart of the employment relationship lies the wage-work bargain, a bilateral contract between the employer and the employee. Within this there is a general duty on employers to pay wages, a failure of which may result in a breach of the employment contract.
On the other side there is also a contractual obligation on the employee to turn up to work and failure to do so may also amount to a breach of that contract.
Employees Absent Due to Snow
Although certain allowances are made in respect of absence within the Employment Act, provisions within individual contracts may enable employers to ask absent staff to take paid holiday or annual leave, request an employee to work from home or make up the time lost due to absence.
In relation to employees with dependents, there is a statutory right to unpaid leave in order to make arrangements for dependents in an emergency situation. This statutory right may be invoked by employees if their children's schools are closed due to snow for example. In this regard, the period of time off work will depend on what is reasonable in the circumstances.
Employees’ Responsibility to Get to Work
The onus is on employees to get to work, therefore absence from work due to snow or other adverse weather need not necessarily be remunerated. There is no legal obligation to pay employees for travel delays caused by snow or other bad weather, unless travel constitutes working time or if an employer provides transport for its employees.
Employers may have customary practices in place for dealing with absenteeism due to snow or other bad weather. It is advisable to have a bad weather policy in place in order to determine how bad weather situations will be handled. Although there is no legal obligation to pay staff who are absent due to snow or other bad weather, many employers recognise that adverse weather is relatively infrequent and take a flexible approach.
If you would like more information regarding the operation of employment rights in unusual circumstances such as adverse weather, Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can advise you. Please contact Aneil Balgobin via e-mail ABalgobin@rollingsons.co.uk or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.