· 1 min read · Features

Should employers have to pay staff who didn't attend work in the snow?

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The recent bad weather has meant that many people have failed to get to work due to school closures and travel difficulties. One question on the minds of many employers is do they have to pay employees who didn't attend work

Generally, if the place of work is open for business, then employers do not have to pay the employees who do not attend work due to travel difficulties or bad weather.

The employer should also ask themselves whether the employee could have made it to work with some difficulty - but chose not to, or whether they were truly snowed in and unable to attend!  The employer must, however, revert to their contract of employment, as there can be contractual provisions about withholding pay.

Aside from the legal issues about pay, there are a number of other matters to consider:

  • Consider balancing your legal obligations to staff, with encouraging good work relations, morale and maintaining health and safety
  • Be aware that if you made the choice to close the business due to the snow, employees will be entitled to receive full pay unless the contract contains a temporary lay off clause - allowing employees to be laid off without pay
  • Be careful about forcing employees to take a day's holiday - employers cannot force employees to use their holidays without consent, unless the contract of employment specifically allows it
  • Dealing with employees that phoned in sick during the snowy period will be a difficult issue. Sickness absences of staff can be dealt with by sickness absence management procedures and return to work interviews, which often deter employees taking the odd day off!
  • Be considerate of the reasons staff were absent during the bad weather - those with childcare responsibilities must not be treated less favourably than their colleagues without such responsibilities, although emergency leave to care for children is generally unpaid, unless a contract states otherwise

Lauren Harkin is a solicitor in the employment law team at Lemon&Co Solicitors