Hurricane Lorenzo highlights why you need an adverse weather policy

Brian Murray

October 03 2019

The first ominous weather warning of the winter season serves as a reminder to employers that the time has come to put a specific Adverse Weather Policy in place.

With weather warnings becoming increasingly common during the winter months, prudent employers are developing a clear policy setting out what happens if employees are unable to attend work due to adverse weather.

Do I have to pay employees who don’t show for work?

This tends to be the first question employers ask when bad weather strikes.

A strict interpretation of the law allows employers to determine whether or not payment is due for workdays missed due to extreme weather. If your premises remains open and employees are absent, there is strictly speaking no legal obligation to pay employees for what is effectively an unauthorised absence.

Withholding pay should be carefully considered as it may affect staff morale and your reputation as an employer. Employees may also rely on custom and practice to argue that payment is due. So, if you paid absent employees during a previous weather warning, tread carefully.

If you need to close your premises during an extreme weather event, it is recommended employees be paid as normal for any days they are sent home or told not to come to work.

What are my options if employees are affected by adverse weather?

If your employees are genuinely unable to attend work due to the extreme weather, the following options are available depending on the nature of the work:

  • Ask employees to work from home.
  • Continue to pay employees as normal.
  • Deduct any absences from the employee’s paid annual leave entitlement.
  • Allow employees to make up any missed time at a later date.

Employee safety and public transport closures

The safety of employees should be paramount for employers. Your statutory duty to provide a safe place of work includes ensuring that employees are not required to undertake a hazardous journey to work. If public transport is not operating, you face a heightened risk of claims by employees who suffer accidents on their journey to work.

Time for a policy

Hurricane Lorenzo’s approach may represent an opportunity to develop your own internal policy on how weather warnings will be handled. Once this policy is reasonable and properly communicated to your employees, you will minimise your exposure to a winter of employee discontent.

If you have questions about weather-related HR issues, speak with an expert on 1890 252 923. You can also complete a contact form to receive a callback.

Suggested Resources