TSP Employment Solicitor, Sam Welham, discusses the effects of adverse weather on a business.

As we near the festive season, most of us think of mulled wine, turkey and ‘how are we going to get all this work done before Christmas’. One problem, that will certainly not help the last point, is snow.

At the first sign of a flurry, the country grinds to a halt. Airports shut, roads block, and trains run slower than ever. Getting to work becomes difficult, and potentially dangerous.

This all raises a thorny issue – pay. Employees will claim they are willing to work, just unable to get in, and should still be paid.

What is the legal position? The answer is far from clear cut, and it depends on a number of factors including any contractual documents, collective agreement and what usually happens in the business.

If these are no help, then what?

Hourly workers, with no guaranteed hours, are likely to be paid because of the work they do, rather than their willingness to work. Arguably, unless the employee actually turns up, and works, there is usually going to be no right to be paid.

With salaried employees, the position is more ambiguous. There is no rule that wages are always payable during unavoidable absence. The Employment Tribunal would consider how the parties have behaved previously, including whether or not the employee has been paid in the past when unable to attend work because of bad weather.

To minimise risk and retain profitability, action may be taken:

  1. Implement a policy. Make it clear whether employees will be paid or not.
  2. If your position is that employees who do not turn up for work should not be paid, then contracts may need to be varied to include a deduction from wages clause.
  3. Publicise the policy and ensure that all employees are aware of it.
  4. Consider whether employees are able to work from another site, or at home.
  5. Behave consistently, as issues arise.