Different interpretations have emerged on the employment law question of whether staff who cannot get to work because of bad weather are entitled to be paid.
‘Employees are obliged to attend the office unless they are sick, on holiday or maternity leave etc. The onus is, therefore, on employees to come into work,’ according to a bulletin released by employment law firm Pinsent Masons in January. ‘Technically, this applies even in extreme weather conditions.’
If the employee’s normal mode of transport is completely out of action, ‘you may need to revise this view,’ Pinsent Masons added, not least if the individual is putting their safety at risk by using alternative methods of transport.
But Richard Nicolle, a partner in Denton Wilde Sapte’s employment practice, gave a different emphasis. ‘Unless an employer has a specific clause written into contracts of employment saying that, if employees cannot get into work because of weather, they lose a day’s pay or employees’ pay is based on actual units of work undertaken, they would almost certainly remain entitled to receive pay.
‘Employees have statutory protection against an unauthorised deduction being made from their wages, so if the employer has no contractual right to deduct pay and if the employee does not consent, deducting pay would be potentially subject to legal challenge.’
The different emphases reflect the fact that the right to be paid and duty to turn up for work are of equal status, but can come into conflict in extreme circumstances. Two ways around the problem are for the employees to agree to treat it as a day’s holiday, or for them to make up the time subsequently.
This month thousands of employees have stayed at home after heavy snowfalls affected almost the whole country.