Home / The Rix & Kay Blog / Snow days and adverse weather
Lynn Marlow

HR Adviser - East Sussex (Uckfield)

12th December 2022

As cold spikes hit the UK, this can create chaos for employers and workers alike. The Met Office has issued a string of yellow weather warnings for snow and ice across the UK over the next few days, and the UK Health Security Agency has put out a level three cold weather alert across England. A five minute journey to work can take two hours.  School closures lead to sudden childcare issues for many employees. Road closures make access to many areas impossible. As a result of snow days and adverse weather, companies often face a major loss of working hours and subsequent loss of revenue.

Do you have a plan in place for “snow days and adverse weather” and do you know where you stand?

Employers should always plan for adverse weather conditions and consequent disruption and it is advisable to include an Adverse Weather and Travel Disruption Policy in your company’s handbook so that staff are aware of procedures to be followed in such circumstances. By necessity, an employer will need to be flexible in terms of what they can expect from their employees and health and safety issues must always be borne in mind. Working from home may be a possibility for some staff. As an employer you do have a duty of care to your staff and you are responsible for their Health & Safety. Employers should not pressurise an employee into making a journey that they have indicated might not be safe. If employees can get to work, you must ensure you’ve carried a risk assessment on your premises and taken precautions to avoid any accidents or uncomfortable conditions.

Are you obliged to pay your employees if they are unable to get to work?

This will vary from company to company, but generally, if an employee is absent from work due to extreme weather, they are not entitled to be paid for the time lost. An employer does have discretion on this point however, and may give employees the option to take the day off as paid annual leave, to make up the lost hours within a reasonable timeframe or to treat the absence as flexitime or time off in lieu.

In addition, companies may insert specific clauses in their contracts of employment which cover the arrangements in respect of payment or non payment for employees who are unable to get to work for reasons beyond their control.

With many companies now having Agile and Hybrid working practices in place, the most obvious question is to establish whether employees are able to work from home. Employers should consider, however, that some roles cannot be performed at home and as such employees who cannot work remotely should not be penalised. Whilst employers aren’t obliged to pay towards heating bills or provide home heaters, it’s advisable for employers to remind home-working staff of the need to maintain a safe temperature and give advice about how to achieve this, such as working in the warmest room in the house.

Is an employee entitled to be paid if their workplace is closed?

A decision to close a workplace will not be taken lightly but may be necessary in extreme circumstances due to the impossibility of guaranteeing employees’ health and safety. Yes, in these circumstances, an employee will be entitled to receive payment as it is the employer who has taken the decision to close the workplace. The employer is entitled however, if the necessary IT infrastructure is in place, to ask its employees to work from home, reducing the loss of productivity due to the workplace closure.

How is a school closure dealt with? Can an employee simply take a day off?

Where employees need to make sudden alternative arrangements in terms of childcare due to a school closure, they may take advantage of the right to take time off to deal with an emergency situation. This is known as Time Off for Dependants which is available to all employees from day one of their employment. The time off is unpaid, although employers have discretion in this area and may have specific contractual arrangements. An employee should keep their employer fully informed as to the likely duration of any absence, but it is expected that the absence will be a short one to allow the employee to arrange alternative childcare while the school remains closed. Although this right is most frequently used for absences due to childcare issues, it is also available to those with elderly dependants whose care arrangements may also need to be re-arranged in adverse weather conditions.

An alternative option in these circumstances would be for an employee to take the day off as paid annual leave if this is agreed with the employer.

The snow may be making a further appearance, so be prepared!

Do you require a review of your Company Handbook or how to handle snow days and adverse weather conditions? The GatekeeperHR team is here to help. GatekeeperHR is a fixed cost, employment law and HR retainer service which provides businesses with access to a dedicated team of experienced lawyers and HR professionals who you can speak to, or meet face-to-face, at any time. The service includes a full HR compliance audit, access to an online portal full of valuable employment law and HR resources and an annual training session on topics of your choosing. To find out more about GatekeeperHR, please get in touch with Employment Solicitor Elaine Abbs or call 01732 441125. Alternatively, you can browse www.gatekeeperhr.co.uk, sign up for a free trial, or contact us.