It’s snow pay for non-attendees

To avoid paying employees you should require employees to make every safe and reasonable attempt to attend work during adverse weather.

Also require them to contact you each day and seek to find ways in which they can work. For example perhaps they can work remotely, or answer telephone enquiries remotely. Even if they cannot get into work, maybe through lack of confidence driving, see if you can get work to them by e-mail or other means. If they can do some work for you then it is safest to pay them fully even if they cannot work a whole day.

Only if they cannot contribute to your business should you contemplate not paying them. But if they are not available for work then they are not fulfilling their contract. You may justifiably feel they do not need to be paid and it is likely the law will back you.

However if employees have accrued holiday remaining then should be reminded that they may choose to take part of their annual holiday entitlement. You must stop short of requiring them to take holiday. However if adverse conditions are likely to continue then you might want to consider giving them notice. The .gov website suggests you can require holiday if you give two days notice for each one day’s holiday (unless the term in an employment contract says otherwise)..

Some considerations:

Check your individual employee contractual documentation as this could over-ride the advice given above.

Keep in mind that there is the possibility of a legal challenge to employers who fail to pay staff who are stranded at home or elsewhere. If it comes, then I suspect it will come from a Trade Union against a “soft target” such as a large organisation. It would be worth being prepared for this to happen. Should such a challenge succeed (I think most probably that it will not) then you may in turn be faced with a challenge to re-pay earnings that have been “deducted”.

Staff morale may be affected if you are viewed as a measly employer. It is for you to assess the importance of that perception to you. Of course, conversely paying staff who do not attend when others make huge efforts to attend might not be conducive to morale either.

You might like to keep in mind that the CIPD, among other organisations, is encouraging employers to pay absent employees in any event.

Also beware that if employees feel under pressure (because they need the earnings) then they might take disproportionate risks in order to get to work. You must advise then to not do this in any communication you have with them. If they have an accident en route to work they could try to claim against you. Accidents on the way to work would not normally be the employer’s responsibility. But if they felt under pressure to keep getting paid they might see you as employer as responsible if they have a weather based accident. You might want to take appropriate legal advice from a personal injury specialist.

In the end snow will cost. The question is whether the cost should be borne by employers (who may also meet additional costs for covering absent employees) or by employees themselves (who may be more vulnerable). Different organisations will decide differently.

There is no definitive answer, at least not yet.

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