Winter weather

What should you do if an employee can't get to work?

You could refuse to pay an employee who can't get to work because of severe weather, even if it's not their fault. However, what you can do and what you should do may differ. The cost of paying someone who can't make it in may be outweighed by the benefit in morale that you achieve by paying them for a snow day. Courts are increasingly willing to hold employers liable for acts by employees that are closely connected with the performance of their job so you should not encourage them to travel in dangerous weather.

What if you need someone to work?

Many jobs can be done from home. So, when bad weather approaches, you should encourage employees who frequently work from home to do so when severe weather makes travelling difficult or even dangerous. For others, check whether their contract of employment allows you to require them to work from home rather than just take the day off. If it doesn't, speak to them about your plans with a view to reaching an agreement. Remember that some employees' homes will not be suitable work places so consider the health and safety aspects of homeworking before imposing a requirement.

What about using annual leave?

Faced with taking paid holiday or losing a day's pay, most employees, if given a choice, will take annual leave. You can offer employees the chance to book holiday if they can't make it in.

Could you avoid paying staff by closing the workplace?

If employees are working from home, you must pay them their normal wage. If an employee is unable to work because you have chosen to close the premises, this will in effect be a period of lay off. Unless you have a contractual provision permitting unpaid lay-off, you should pay them as normal.

Must you permit parents time off if their children's schools have closed because of bad weather?

Employees have a statutory right to deal with an incident that occurs unexpectedly in a period during which an educational establishment is responsible for their child. However, the right is limited to sufficient time off to deal with the immediate issue and sort out longer-term arrangements if necessary. So, if the school will be closed for a week, it would be reasonable for them to make alternative arrangements in a day or two. The employee must tell you the reason for the absence as soon as reasonably possible and how long they expect to be away. The time off is unpaid.