It's snow joke - employment rights in adverse weather conditions

Do employees who take "snow days" have to be paid?

The short answer is no. Provided that the workplace is open for business, employees are obliged to turn up and work unless they are sick or taking authorised leave. Employers can therefore refuse to pay employees if they do not make it to work due to the adverse weather conditions.

Do employees who take "snow days" have to be paid?

The short answer is no. Provided that the workplace is open for business, employees are obliged to turn up and work unless they are sick or taking authorised leave. Employers can therefore refuse to pay employees if they do not make it to work due to the adverse weather conditions.

In the past the majority of employers have decided to exercise their discretion and pay employees as a gesture of goodwill. However in the current economic climate it is expected that more employers will refuse to pay employees for snow days. Our advice is that you should assess whether or not it is in the best interests of your business to not pay employees who take snow days. Deducting money from your staff's pay packets may save some cash for the business but is likely to have a significant long term impact on morale and productivity.

If you decide to close the business because of the snow then you cannot withhold pay from employees unless you have an express contractual right to do so.

What about staff who could make it to work but choose not to?

There are always a select few who could easily walk to work but choose to stay under the duvet. If staff falsely blame the snow for their failure to attend the workplace then this could be a disciplinary matter. A one off offence may not be worth investigating but we advise that you keep records to see if there are any regular offenders, where disciplinary action may be appropriate.

Can you force an employee who cannot make it into the office to take holiday?

This is not really an option. This is because employers need to give notice that is at least double the length of the holiday to force employees to take leave. Since we do not know when adverse weather conditions will occur giving notice is not possible.

Is there a minimum temperature for offices?

There is no legal minimum temperature but the general rule is that indoor workplaces should be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If the heating system is not working and temperatures drop then consider sending employees home and try to keep people happy by providing incentives such as free hot drinks and snacks.

What can employers do to minimise the disruption?

Having an Adverse Weather Policy could be very helpful. This will ensure that staff are aware of their entitlements and can also provide guidance for covering absent employee's work. Setting up home working for key staff is also a sensible measure to take. If people can access the IT systems at home then this will ensure that there is less disruption to your business.