What are the key points that you need to know when employees are unable to get to work, whether this is due to tube strikes, flooding, air travel disruption or snow?
First and foremost, there is no general obligation to pay employees that are unable to get to work, but depending on how a business has dealt with these situations before and their employment contracts or policies, there may be a contractual requirement to pay stranded employees.
How to prepare
- Have in place a strategy for dealing with adverse weather before it arrives and publicise it in advance so that employees and managers know what to expect before the snow arrives.
- Assess the risks and have a business continuity plan to fall back on in times of disruption.
- Review employment contracts and policies to ensure that these reflect the way in which the business intends to handle disruptive events.
There are a number of alternatives to simply saying that employees will not be paid, these include:
- Working from home. If this is an option, when the forecast is looking grim, employees should be encouraged to plan ahead and take home what they need.
- Attending a different workplace that is closer to home.
- Taking the time as paid annual leave. This is subject to the right to time off for dependents. This is where care arrangements are unexpectedly disrupted, for example if schools close, employees have a right to take reasonable time off for childcare. This is unpaid unless the employer’s usual practice or the employment contract says otherwise. In these circumstances employers cannot force employee to use up paid annual leave.
- Asking employees to make up the time.
- Paying leave for a limited period of time after which employees must make up the hours or take unpaid or paid annual leave.
- In extreme cases, closing the workplace, either because it is unsafe or uneconomical to open with so few staff. Unless the contract provides otherwise, employees who are ready and willing to work will still need to be paid.
After the event, make sure that policies are applied consistently. The response could affect morale, particularly if some employees have battled into work and there could be resentment if efforts are not recognised.