Following one of the coldest nights of the winter the Met Office has issued a severe cold weather warning for the next few days.  With many train services affected and widespread disruption reported on the roads, journey times have also been severely impacted throughout the UK.

In some parts of the country employees have struggled, or have been unable, to make it into work due to the severe weather and the disruption to public transport.  If this issue faced your business, would you know your legal obligations?

This guide explores your rights around this issue.

1.  Do I need to pay those employees who cannot make it into work because of severe weather?  The onus is on your employees to get to work regardless of the severity of the weather conditions.  If an employee fails to turn up for work in these circumstances, you are under no obligation to pay them.  

2.  Are there any other options which can be considered?  Yes. For example, you may authorise them to work from home if this is a viable option or agree that the time can be taken off as paid annual leave.

3.  Do I need to pay my employees if a significant number of them cannot get into work and I decide to close the business for the day?  This would be classified as lay-off period and you should continue to pay your employees their normal wages unless there is a contractual provision allowing for unpaid lay-offs, or they agree to being laid off without pay.

4.  If I close the business for a day but offer some alternative paid employment and they refuse, am I obliged to pay them?  There is no obligation on you to pay an employee who unreasonably refuses an offer of suitable alternative employment for a day when the business is closed.

Advising your employees to allow extra time for their journey and asking them to stay abreast of the weather forecast so that they can exercise discretion in terms of whether or not they attempt to travel into work during periods of severe weather will demonstrate that their safety and well-being is paramount.

For more information and advice you can visit our news and updates page.


By Bruce Ramshaw

Principal Consultant

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