There are a number of different things to look at in these situations but the starting points are the contract and staff handbook and in particular any adverse weather policies.
Companies are only obliged to pay staff for any work that they have actually done or that they were willing to do but were prevented by their employer. Employees who cannot attend work due to adverse weather conditions can be given the choice of taking the time off as paid annual leave and using up some of their holiday entitlement or having it as unpaid leave. Recognition should be given for any work that your employees do actually manage to do during this time.
Employers should consider what they have done in the past when people have been prevented from attending work through some other natural problem, such as flooding, to make sure that their actions are consistent. Bear in mind the impact on morale by paying for these days or making employees use up their annual leave for an issue beyond their control. If your workforce is already unhappy because of a pay freeze then their morale will drop further if you make them use up holidays, or lose pay, in these circumstances.
An issue to consider is whether or not the expectation on staff to travel against direct advice not to do so could be considered a breach of your duty of care under Health And Safety regulations. There is always a risk that by withholding pay you are open to a challenge from your employees on health and safety grounds. If employees can work from home then it is worth considering this as a compromise between getting the work done and keeping them safe.
Companies mustn’t give the impression that they think the people who didn’t attend work are in any way less dedicated than their colleagues who did attend or that they were simply shirking off work. If the company publicly thanks those who made it in, once more of the workforce have managed to return, it can easily look like a criticism of those who didn’t attend.
Employees with dependents may need to take the time off in order to see to the health and welfare of elderly relatives or because their child’s school had closed and they were left unexpectedly without childcare. Taking reasonable time off, unpaid, in these circumstances is a statutory right.
For any further clarification, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.