The recent storms and floods, severely affecting southern England and parts of Wales, will undoubtedly have had a knock on effect on businesses and jobs. Workplaces will have been kept shut, and, where they are open, employees will have struggled to get to work. So where does an employer stand in situations like this, and what can be done, in practical terms, with staff?
When the workplace has to be closed
Unless you have a contractual right to place employees on unpaid lay off (check your staff contracts for a clause which permits you to place you staff on unpaid lay off, or short time working), your staff are entitled to be paid in full for any hours they would have worked had the workplace been open for them to work. If you have had to shut down and therefore cannot provide work for your staff to do, then you must pay them.
Payment for staff who cannot get to work
You do not need to pay staff who cannot make it into work, when the workplace is open for business. This may seem a little harsh because their absence isn’t their fault; a fallen tree may be blocking their road, or floods may mean that driving is not safe. However, in drastic times like this is, employers may have to rely on their correct legal position to their benefit. This also applies to those who make it to work but arrive late – you do not need to pay for the time that they were not in work (unless a specific contractual provision says that they will be paid).
Sending staff home early
If it is your decision to send the employees home early because trade is slow due to reduced footfall, or to give them a better chance of making it home before their kids go to bed, you would normally still have to pay for the full day.
Other options regarding payment
If you have had to shut the workplace completely, you may be able to enforce paid annual leave on your staff. You would need to give notice to your staff to do this, and the minimum you need to give is twice the length of the time off in question e.g. 2 days’ notice must be given for 1 day’s holiday. Alternatively, you could agree with the employee that they take annual leave to cover their absence, in which case you would not need to give any notice.
Otherwise you could see if the employee was owed any time off in lieu, or any flexi time which they could take to cover their absence and still be paid.