Early warning for adverse weather conditions in the coming months

Adverse Weather

With the forecast making predictions for adverse weather in the early months of 2016, we provide answers to some of the key questions that baffle Employers.

Do I have to pay employees who are unable to reach their workplace due to adverse weather?
You are not legally obliged to pay an employee who has failed to turn up for work due to adverse weather conditions unless there is a provision stating otherwise in the employee’s contract of employment.
It might be worthwhile however exploring alternatives such as working from home or even asking employees to make up the time by working additional days/hours. Alternatively you can seek their agreement to take the days absence as annual leave.

How should I deal with employees who have used bad weather as an excuse not to arrive at work?
If you are suspicious that an employee is not telling you the truth with regards to the reasons they are unable to attend work then it may be appropriate to treat this matter as a disciplinary matter. In such cases, employers will need to investigate this matter in line with their Disciplinary policy to establish if there is a case to answer.

Do I have to pay employees if they have to stay at home with their children due to school closures?
Legally, all employees have the right to have unpaid time off for dependents to assist with emergencies. However such time off should be no longer than what is required to deal with the immediate emergency.

Can I force my employees to take holidays from their annual holiday entitlement?
Employers cannot force employees to do this unless there is an express provision in their contract of employment allowing them to do so. You can however discuss this matter with the employee and come to an agreement as to whether it is appropriate for them to take off their time as annual leave, unpaid leave or possibly make the time up.

What are my health and safety obligations towards my staff during bad weather?
As an employer you have a duty of care concerning the health and safety of your employees. If the official weather advice is not to travel for example and you operate a fleet of drivers it would not be advisable to send them onto the road. It is important to strike the correct balance between encouraging employees to exercise their best efforts to get into work without requiring them to take undue risks or make journeys in dangerous conditions.

As a consequence of the bad weather my business has suffered greatly and will need to close or reduce in size, what are the implications of this?
This will amount to a redundancy situation and you will have to follow the correct procedures in relation to consulting with your employees. The law surrounding this area, especially with regards to the process and payments is very complex, and if not correctly followed can result in employees bringing successful claims for unfair dismissal. It is therefore important that you seek the correct advice before taking any action.