Snow Joke For Employers!

Tue 15th Jan 2013

As tsnowhe extreme weather is set to hit all over the region employers are counting the costs with many employees unable or in some cases unwilling to make it into work.

But what exactly are the legal implications? Money first, Employees do not have the right to be paid on ‘snow days’. Many employers will make discretionary payments in these circumstances, but there is no legal entitlement to payment. Employers can require employees to take annual leave or unpaid leave in these circumstances. There is an argument that if employers have historically paid employees on snow days that this has, by custom and practice, become an implied right. However, my advice would be that as we as a region very rarely get prolonged severe weather that the payment of an odd day is customary but for a period of several days would prove unsustainable.

What happens if an employee tells you they can’t make it in and an employer compels them to do so, if they have an accident whether on foot or in the car, the employer is potentially negligent.

What happens if you think an employee is swinging the lead? If you have a genuine belief they could make it in and did not then it is an unauthorised absence and the employee should be disciplined in accordance with disciplinary procedure.

What if an employee comes in and works over and above their contracted hours to cover for those who can’t make it in? If they are salaried then they are not entitled to be paid extra, but think logically about it! What incentive is there to come in and work extra if there is no reward? If they are hourly paid then they should be paid overtime in accordance with their contractual rates of pay.

What if an employee thinks they can make it to work and slips on the pavement walking in? If the pavement is a council pavement, you may have a claim against the council. The council owes exactly the same duty of care to pedestrians as it does to motorists. If the employee slips on the steps up to the front door of work then this is the responsibility of your employer as an occupier. This applies equally to members of the public and public access routes should be kept clear to avoid claims.

What should employers do to safeguard themselves? Have disaster recovery plans in place to ensure that key personnel are contactable at all times whether remotely or not and make provision for people who genuinely cannot make it in to work from home. Your plan should ensure that at least a skeleton staff can make it to avoid a drop in client care levels. Ensure that where necessary you can use agency staff to fill gaps to ensure services runs seamlessly as possible.

From an employment point of view, firstly, have clear reporting procedures in place. Employees should know who to call and by what time. They should keep you posted if conditions change. Have clear procedures in place in respect of pay for leave and ensure they are applied consistently.

Contact Phil Sayers in our Truro Office for more information on 01872 246200 or email:

Tue 15th Jan 2013

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