What to do when employees are snowed in and can’t make it to work

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For the third year in succession, parts of the country have been brought to a standstill with the severe weather conditions. The Federation of Small Businesses estimated that 6.4 million employees failed to make it to work during the cold spell in February earlier this year, costing businesses well over £1 billion. Even though these conditions appear to be becoming common-place, many employers are still grappling with the difficult decision over whether to pay staff who are absent from work due to public transport delays, dangerous road conditions, school closures or simply being unable to get the car off the drive. Even a slight spattering of snow can make attendance at work turn erratic, with some opting out on the sight of a few snowflakes. There are a few things that can be done to ensure that employees know their responsibilities when it comes to getting to work in bad weather. It is very much the employee’s responsibility that they turn up for work, if they don’t turn up, they don’t get paid. However, if weather conditions make it dangerous to get into work, you cannot expect employees to risk their safety to get into work. If the weather makes coming into work impossible, consider introducing a formal call-in procedure for those who know they are going to be late. We recommend that you have an adverse weather policy to clearly outline employees’ responsibilities and make sure that your employees are aware of the policy to be applied . Typically, such a policy will confirm that in the event of adverse weather conditions, employees are expected to try to find an alternative mode of transport to ensure they are able to attend work and carry out their duties as normal. It should be made clear that normal absence procedures such as notifying line managers by a set time should also be observed. Whether payment should be made to employees is purely down to you, the employer. There is no statutory obligation to pay an employee if they are unable to attend work. However, employers may wish to consider offering different options to employees such as:
  • Homeworking – may be possible for those who purely need internet access and a computer for their duties.
  • Annual leave – you could suggest they take annual leave.
  • Unpaid leave – you could suggest they take unpaid leave.
  • Flexi-time – staff could make up time lost from not coming into work, but this needs to be monitored carefully.
Always be mindful of the employee’s contract just in case you have a contractual obligation to pay employees who do not turn up for work. We recommend that you utilise your return to work procedures in each case as this is still absence and you need to establish with a certain degree of accuracy exactly why your employee could not make it in.

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