Written by Richard Rowell
Published on December 3, 2010

In the current conditions facing the UK, many employers are being faced with the question of to pay or not to pay?? 

As usual there is no single answer and there are different ways to tackle this.

There is no statutory right, only a contractual right to pay and as always you should refer to contracts of employment before taking any action.  If an employee's terms & conditions are silent on a particular point then you would revert the general consensus is that if the employee attends work then you should pay them, if they do not attend work then you do not need to pay them.

If there is no contractual right to pay this will obviously cause some friction with employees who blame the weather for them not getting to work thus not getting paid.  Many companies are still paying employees at full pay when absent through the inability to get to work through snow. This clearly disadvantages the employer.

One alternative solution is to state that they won't be getting paid, but allow the individual to take the time off as holiday.  By doing this, the employees will have less holidays to take during the busy periods meaning a better attendance and also higher productivity. Be warned though, when requiring employees to take holiday you do need to provide appropriate notice which is defined as twice as many days as the duration of the leave. However, when faced with the option of no pay or taking holiday days, many employees will often agree to take holidays.

What about parents absent providing emergency childcare?

Another impact of the snow has been the closure of schools. Many parents have been absent from work to provide childcare. In this scenario employees are entitled to emergency time off to look after their dependents.

However there is no statutory right to payment for this period.  This would be a contractual right. You should refer to what your contract of employment says. Many employers choose to make payment in these circumstances, despite not being legally obliged to do so. As employers you can come to some other arrangement such as time off in lieu of overtime or holidays such as the scenario above.

But what if the Company has no work due to the weather??

If all of your employees make it to work but you have no work for them due to the weather, construction as a prime example, then you should pay them. When an employer closes due to weather they are actually laying employees off temporarily and employees will have the right to full pay.

Again a company can be disadvantaged in this case but there is a simple remedy as there are contractual terms that can be introduced which can assist employers facing such a situation.  The right to temporarily lay off employees or instigate short time working at low pay can be built into contracts of employment. By having these tools in place, a Company can minimise the amount it will have to pay in these difficult times.

Lessons for the future ?

There are two key lessons to learn for many employers who have been caught short by the length and severity of the recent snowfall.

The first is a practical one. Try and allow employees to work from home in such situations where possible. This can be through improved use of advancing technology and allowing employees to use their pc's to work from home. Or simply planning ahead and ensuring employees actually take work home when there is the possibility that they may not be able to get to the office.

Secondly, review your contracts of employment. Many companies still do not have contracts in place or simply haven't covered the eventuality of sustained absence from work through the weather conditions. Companies who have in place clear and concise Terms & Conditions of employment can effectively manage these troublesome periods with minimal damage to their revenue.

If you need any further information please give us a call.

The above information has been provided by our friends at HR Consultants, Stallard Kane Associates Limited www.stallardkaneassociates.com.