If it is your decision to send the employees home, either because you are closing the workplace part way through the day or keeping it open with skeleton staff, you would normally still have to pay the employees for the full day. For full days of closure, employees will still be entitled to full pay unless there is provision in the contract of employment allowing for unpaid lay off.
Can I make employees take the time off as holiday if they’re off due to the snow?
Employers can make employees take holiday at times when it suits the business but only if certain advance notice requirements are met. To enforce a holiday, employers must give notice that is equal to twice the length of time that the employer wants to be taken off e.g. 2 days’ notice must be given for 1 day’s holiday; 10 days’ notice must be given for 5 days’ holiday. Typically, the nature of bad weather means that employers could not rely on this provision for a short notice holiday. However, if the employee agrees to the employer’s suggestion to take short or no notice holiday, this is fine.
My employees have tried everything possible to get into work but all public transport has come to a halt, do I have to pay these employees?
Even though the employee’s absence is through no fault of their own, an employer has no obligation to pay an employee if he fails to turn up for work because public transport is not running, or for the hours missed if he turns up late. Whilst there is no obligation, employers may wish to be accommodating in this circumstance and offer to let the employee make up the time on another day so they still get paid, or suggest that holiday be taken on that day.
Do I need to give special dispensation to employees who have to look after their children if they are off school due to a ‘snow day’?
No. Employees with children do not have a statutory right to be paid in the event that they have to have an emergency day off with their children, but contracts should be checked to see if there is a contractual right to this. Again, consideration could be given to making the time up, or agreeing a day of holiday. Alternatively, if the shut down of the school is the only reason for absence and otherwise the employee would have been able to get to work, the employee would be entitled to unpaid time off for dependants to look after the children.
If you are unsure of your obligations towards employees during these hazardous weather conditions, contact the 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772 and one of our experienced advisors will be happy to assist you.