Schools have been closed and travel plans have been disrupted across the UK as heavy snow falls up and down the country. This morning your employees will be wondering what they should do if they can’t get into work because of the adverse weather. Jane Crosby from law firm Hart Brown explains what rights your employees have, and what advice you should give them depending on the severity of the snow in your area.
Are my employees entitled to be paid if they can’t get into work due to bad weather and transportation difficulties?
The responsibility is on the employee to attend work. Generally, there is no legal right entitling someone to be paid by their employer if they are unable to attend work because of transportation problems such as tube strikes and in certain circumstances it can be treated as an unauthorised absence.
While alternative travel arrangements such as travelling by car may be possible for some people, this may not be an option for employees who have a disability and employers need to be careful how they administer adverse weather policies in order not to risk discrimination issues.
However, some employers may have contractual, collective or custom and practice arrangements in place relating to pay in such situations so you should also consider whether your employees would be entitled to be paid in accordance with any of these.
What if we must close the office due to the weather conditions? Are my employees entitled to be paid?
Generally, they would be entitled to be paid if you close the office. If you make a deduction from their pay then they would have the right to bring a claim for unauthorised deduction of wages and/or breach of contract to recover the sums owed.
One of the exceptions to this is if you agree otherwise or the employment contract has a clause entitling your employer to lay someone off without pay. There are complex rules which apply to such clauses.
Can an employer force staff to take the time off as holiday?
The employer cannot force employees to take the time off as holiday without their agreement, unless the employment contract contains an express right entitling it to do so.
Some of my staff have children whose schools are closed, and therefore they cannot attend work. What are their rights?
A parent of a child has the right to take a reasonable amount of time off where it is necessary to deal with the unexpected disruption, termination or breakdown of arrangements to care for the child. You should check to see what your approach is, but usually they will not be entitled to be paid for this day. They are however protected from suffering any detriment for taking the time off.
What is the minimum temperature that an office should be?
Health and safety regulations state that an indoor workroom, such as an office, should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing and normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius.