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Adverse Weather is Snow Joke For Employers

8th December, 2010

Bing Crosby may be dreaming of it, but for the rest of us, snow and extreme wintry weather can be far from an idyllic Christmas card scene. Employers in particular will remember the chaos of the ‘Big Freeze’ of January 2010, with a YouGov poll revealing that 57% of the companies and firms questioned, felt that their businesses suffered as a result of the weather, with the major issue being employees being able to attend work on time, if at all.

With most of the UK experiencing below average temperatures; and with the Met Office warning of similar weather over the coming weeks, it is important, as an employer, to consider how adverse weather conditions will affect your business.

One of the major concerns for employers relates to paying staff who genuinely cannot get to work as a result of the weather. There is no legal right for an employee to receive pay in this situation (subject to any contractual provisions to the contrary), although this does not mean that the employer cannot exercise discretion and pay staff in this circumstance. Careful consideration will need to be given to the employee’s Contract of Employment in respect of payment in this situation. Also, be aware of any potential discrimination issues and the right to take time off to deal with family emergencies (which might include school closures) will also need to be borne in mind.

There are, however, a number of practical ways to handle the situation, which may provide alternatives to simply docking pay for non-attendance. It is a good idea to be prepared to be flexible where possible, perhaps allowing the employee to take ‘snow’ days as paid holiday, or permitting them to make up the lost time. In certain circumstances, it may be possible for employees to work from home and technology can be utilised to assist with this.

It is also important to remember the employer’s duty of care to employees under health and safety legislation; and an employer should avoid placing an employee under pressure to attend work if this could result in them taking disproportionate and unnecessary risks in doing so.

Having experienced disruption last year, many employers will now have an adverse weather policy in place; and planning ahead is certainly advisable. This policy should outline: the steps employees are required to take to try and arrive on work on time; procedures for reporting absence; pay during such absence and possible alternatives to unpaid leave. The policy should be universally applied and all employees should be treated equally and fairly, with care being taken to ensure that the policy does not constitute indirect discrimination.

We may not be able to change, or (as proven by many a weatherman) even predict the weather, but employers can be aware of the issues and make sure suitable arrangements are in place to weather the storm.

If you are concerned about how the weather may affect your business, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team or visit

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