HR & Employment Law Insights

Helping family businesses, start-ups, charities, social enterprises, and other growing or established businesses throughout the UK make sense of HR and Employment Law challenges.

As we are now in December, we are bracing ourselves for the “Big Freeze” which is normally followed by the “Big Thaw!”

The events of winter 2010 are still fresh in the memory, and as the signs on the motorway flyovers indicate “Snow Forecast” or “High Winds Forecast”, business owners get nervous.  How will our staff get to work?  How can we serve our customers?  What will it cost us?

All questions that pose a problem for businesses throughout the UK, but probably more so here in Scotland.

Help is at hand to help you deal with the adverse weather this winter!

Q. What happens if my employees are unable to get to work - do I have to pay them?

A. No, you don’t have to pay them.  You can, however, look at alternatives, for example, could they work from home?  You can also consider asking them to utilise some of their holiday entitlement or make the time up at a later date.

Q. Can I discipline them if they don’t attend and I managed to make it to work?

A. You would not normally class this type of absence as unauthorised providing the employee has reported the fact they won’t attend.  If they don’t, and dependent what is detailed in your absence notification procedure, you could take disciplinary action in this case.  Just because you got to work okay does not mean it’s the same for them!  For example, public transport could be disrupted, their street could be blocked with now or they live quite far from the workplace.

There could also be child care arrangements to consider, whilst it may be viable for them to get to work, the local council could have made a decision to close the school meaning employees have no child care provisions.  Again, alternatives should be explored but employees do have a right to unpaid time off for dependants.  You would be expected to act reasonably and look at each case individually.

Q. What if I have no work for them to do because of the bad weather.  Can I withhold pay? 

A. No, employees are entitled to their normal rate of pay and you would be expected to look at alternative work.  For example, could staff support with some other tasks such as filing, shredding information, updating records etc?  There are instances where you could lay an employee off without normal pay providing this term is in their contract of employment.  You could consider asking employees to take annual leave to cover the shortfall in work as a result of the extreme weather.

Q. Can I force my employees to take holidays from their annual holiday entitlement if they don't turn up for work?

A. Yes, providing you have a clause in their contract of employment allowing you to do so.

Hopefully, this provides you with some guidance on the steps to take if/when the extreme weather arrives.  It’s good practice to have an “Adverse Weather” policy and if you would like one please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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