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Absence of employees in bad weather

By Stroud Life  |  Posted: January 22, 2013

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FOR all intents and purposes, employers do not need to pay employees who cannot get to work because of bad weather.

Employers may want to, or feel that it's the decent thing to do, but that's another story. In most cases there is no obligation to do so.

The reason for this is simple. Under English law, if you are not sick and don't turn up for work there is no obligation to pay.

An employer may be wise, however, to consider the circumstances before deciding whether to pay. The cost in terms of loss of goodwill may be considerable.

Contracts rarely allow for pay in the event of bad weather but, if they do, then you will need to follow the contract.

The simple rule is this. If the employee is unable to get to work through bad weather but the workplace is open then they are not entitled to pay, even if they're salaried.

If the employee is able and willing to work but the workplace is shut because of the bad weather they are entitled to pay.

Another issue may be that an employer may feel that some staff deserve pay when they don't make it in and others don't. Be careful if you fall into this camp.

If you pay one and not another you may find that if the one not paid has a protected characteristic – such as race, sex, disability, etcetera – and the employee who you do pay does not share that characteristic, you could be accused of discrimination. A uniform approach is, therefore, wise.

A more common issue is where an employee could make it to work but has children where schools are shut.

The legal position is that an employer must allow an employee a reasonable period to arrange child cover.

This is not paid time off, however, and it is to "arrange" child cover, not to simply provide child cover.

The difference here might be academic if the absence is for one day only.

Therefore, be sure of the reason for absence before making a decision.

If you're considering not paying, you might want to let employees know in advance, not that there's a legal requirement to do so, but it might make life easier for you if employees know where they stand.

Simon Collingridge is a partner at specialist niche employment practice Sherbornes LLP.

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