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Do I have to pay my staff if they are absent due to bad weather?

January 31, 2019
Pink VW Beetle almost buried in snow

With parts of the UK currently covered by snow, and more on the way, disruption to travel means many employees struggle to get to work. So, do you still have to pay your employees if they’re absent due to bad weather?

Check your paperwork

As ever with employment law, there are no simple answers! You should start by checking your employee handbook and contracts – do you have a policy in place about absence due to adverse weather? Unless your policies say otherwise, there is no legal obligation to pay staff who can’t come to work due to bad weather or other travel disruption. You may wish to be flexible however – you certainly don’t want your team to put themselves in danger by trying to get to work. In some situations it might be possible for employees to make up the missed time, if that suits the needs of the business.

Is it a domestic emergency?

Schools frequently close in spells of severe weather, which may leave employees without childcare. Time off in this situation would be covered under ‘domestic emergencies’, at least to provide time for parents or carers to make alternative arrangements. Again, unless your policies say something different, there is no entitlement to be paid for this time.

Can they take missed time as annual leave?

While you can’t insist that employees use annual leave to cover time off due to adverse weather, if someone wants to take the time as leave, and so still get paid, then you should usually allow them to.

What if the workplace is closed?

If you have to close the workplace because of the bad weather, so that the employees couldn’t work even if they made it in, then you should, generally, expect to pay them. Withholding pay in this situation could amount to an unlawful deduction from wages and leave you exposed to a claim. Although it’s unlikely to be practical for many businesses, it’s worth considering whether remote working might be possible.

Could this be a disciplinary issue?

Occasionally you may believe that an employee has chosen to use bad weather as an excuse not to come in, particularly if they have a history of dubious absences. These situations should be investigated and dealt with in the same way as any other potential disciplinary issue.

Plan ahead!

Travel disruption due to adverse weather is a reasonably regular problem, so it pays to have a policy in place so that everyone knows what is expected of them.

Please note – the information in this article is provided for general guidance, and is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice in any particular situation.