If an employment contract is silent on a particular point then you would revert the general consensus is that if the employee attends work then you should pay them. Conversely if they do not attend work then there is no need to pay them.
However, adopting that policy may lead to significant employee relations difficulties with employees blaming the weather as the sole reason for them being unable to attend and therefore being denied any pay. In reality many employers do still pay employees at full pay when absent through inability to attend work through adverse weather conditions.
This clearly disadvantages the employer.
A commonly used alternative is to not pay but allow the individual to take the time off as holiday.
In adopting this approach an employees holiday entitlement will reduce ensuring that they are available for work more during future the busy periods, improving attendance and productivity in future periods.
This does come with a health warning over notice periods. If you require employees to take holiday there is a requirement to provide sufficient notice. This is defined as twice as many days as the duration of the leave.
Often, when faced with the option of no pay or taking holiday days, many employees will often agree to take holidays.
Parents absent providing emergency childcare?
A further impact of the weather can be the closure of schools.
This has a knock on effect on the workforce and results in many parents being absent from work to provide childcare. Employees are entitled to emergency time off to look after their dependents but there is no statutory right to payment.
Rights here would again depend on contractual obligations. Again employers often choose to make payment in this scenario even though there is no legal requirement to do so.
What if the Company has no work due to the weather??
This is a slightly different scenario where your employees do report for duty but on arrival there is no actual work for them to undertake (construction is a classic example here) then you should pay them.
In this scenario you as employer are effectively laying employees off temporarily and employees will have the right to full pay.
An employer can be severely disadvantaged here. To afford an employer some protection we strongly recommend that employers look at their employment policies and look to introduce rights to temporarily lay off employees or even allow the employer to instigate short time working at low pay.
A number of lessons can be learned from this and previous weather related problems for employers.
At a practical level consider the work of your employees and can an element be completed from home
The next key point is a review of your contracts of employment to run through the situation when employees cannot attend through weather related disruption.
Finally many employers also introduce specific policies on weather and travel disruption. An example of one provided back in 2010 after heavy snow related disruption can be found here.
If you need any further information we would be happy to give you a call back