Snow business: How to manage staff during bad weather

With snow forecast for many over the coming weeks, as a business owner, you may find yourself wondering how to manage your staff and your business during this period if the bad weather causes some disruption. Here, Julie Pollock from Consult HR answers the common questions asked by business owners in regards to bad weather…


Do I have to pay my employees if they can’t get into work?

In general, no. Employees are legally obliged to come to work provided they are not on sickness, annual or some other “official” holiday. This is the case even during periods of extreme weather.

If the workplace is open, employees should make the effort to get to work if they can. While employers should not encourage employees to put themselves at risk, if an employee cannot get in the employer is not obliged to pay them.

You should double check your staff policies and contracts for any indication that staff will be paid in the event of bad weather. You should also be mindful of what has been done in previous periods of bad weather as if you have paid absences of this nature in the past, you may have set a precedent for payments of this nature.


Do I have to pay my employees if I have to close the business due to bad weather?

If you send staff home after they have presented for work then yes, you will be required to pay them for the full day, unless you agree an alternative with them, i.e. they take holiday hours or they will work back the time at a later date.

However, if you have a lay-off clause in your staff’s contract of employment and you give your staff advance notice not to come into work you can put them on temporary lay off and pay them the guaranteed payment rate instead of their normal wages which is currently £28 per day. Employees who work 5 days per week are entitled to up to 5 days guaranteed payment for any lay off days in a 13 week period (4 days guaranteed payment if they work 4 days per week and so on).


What alternatives are there to docking pay?

Employers may wish to avoid docking staff wages to prevent low morale amongst staff. Approaches to consider include:

  • Paying all staff, regardless of whether they are able to make it into work;
  • Introducing “snow days”, or paid leave for days absent due to bad weather which is limited to a number of days;
  • Asking staff to take annual leave (note that an employer cannot force an employee to take a day holiday without giving advance notice);
  • Permitting staff to make up the time off on their return;
  • Asking staff to work at an alternative workplace (if available); and
  • Permitting staff to work from home if appropriate.​


What can I do if I suspect an employee can make it into work but is choosing not to, blaming bad weather?

In this situation you may consider disciplining the employee. However, employers must have evidence to show employees are blaming their absenteeism on the weather and must not act on suspicions alone. Therefore a thorough investigation should be conducted initially and decide whether this is sufficient information before progressing the matter to a formal disciplinary hearing.

If you have concerns as to what you are required to do as an employer, get in touch today.  Call Julie on 07858089006.