What are the legal implications around taking a ‘snow day’

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UK under the snowBusinesses have experienced considerable disruption recently, as a result of the severe weather that the country has suffered.
Many employees have valiantly battled against the storm to make it in to their places of work, but others have been unable to travel in at all.

Sue Evans, a partner at Lester Aldridge, offers her advice to employers about the recent snow chaos.

Should those employees get paid?
Many businesses have taken the view that they will pay these employees, provided that they are satisfied that the employees concerned genuinely could not make it in to work safely.

However, many businesses have not paid these employees, or have given the employee the choice of taking the time as unpaid leave or as annual leave.

Can employers do this?

In the absence of an agreement to the contrary – yes.

At first sight, this may seem unfair. However, is it fair that employees who take emergency time off for dependents must take that time unpaid, but employees who cannot make it in to work because of the snow get paid?

Surely, consistency is the key. If employees cannot get into work, generally they do not receive pay for those days.
Employers could treat staff on a case by case basis, but if you as an employer chose to do so, beware of any potential arguments of discrimination or less favourable treatment. For example, do not pay all full time staff that couldn’t make it in to work, but withhold pay from your part time staff!

What about the future?

  • Make sure that your key employees have the ability to work from home.
  • You need a contingency plan in place to ensure that your business can function, if your employees are snowed in!
  • Have clear policies in place about whether you will pay employees who cannot make it to work because of the weather, and be clear in what circumstances payment will or will not be made.
  • Also, ensure that you have reporting requirements in place to ensure that staff notify you promptly if they cannot make it in to work.

See also Snow ‘continues to cause absence management problems’

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2 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. The suggested approach to “snow days”seems reasonable.

    Two aspects seem to be missing from this analysis- which may or may not be relevant. First is the extent to which orgnaisations can take corporate decisions to close down a work site and the second is the position when weather deteriorates during the day.

    I worked for a large organisation in Sheffield with around 2,000 employees (mainly in office based roles) on site drawn from a wide area. Sheffield is particularly prone to “snow problems” compared to other places where I have worked. On occasion a corporate decision was made to close the office (often in concert with the local authority civil contingencies people) and on others we as senior line managers had delegated authority to close down our teams. In doing so I took account of factors such as travel mode, distance to be travelled, disability and the degree to which teams were interdependent. In both these cases employees were paid.

  2. All our work is streetworks. It is too hazardous for this work to be done at present. Our office staff are getting to work but all streetworks teams are at home. As they are generally sub contractors paid for what they produce they are not earning. Neither is the main contractor as payment is also based on output. These conditions are losing everyone a lot of money.

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