With the recent concerns over snow day chaos and the impending poor weather conditions, employers are rightly questioning how they should, legally, be dealing with employee difficulties. The guidance below is offered on some of the most common issues arising:
Where staff are unable to access transportation to work, the employer is not necessarily obliged to deal with this issue. Employers are under no obligation to offer time off paid or otherwise where staff are unable to get to work, in most circumstances. The exception to this is where the transport is provided by the employer, for example on a bus that is not operating. That said, where there are concerns for safety, employers are encouraged to look towards alternative solutions, as discussed below.
Employees are entitled to emergency time off unpaid to look after dependants. A nursery or school closing in these circumstances will be considered an emergency and therefore time off, albeit unpaid, should be given. Again, however, it is likely that most employers will look towards alternative solutions to prevent employees having a shortfall in salary.
Where the workplace is closed, and the employer chooses not to open, there remains an obligation on the employer to pay all staff. Similarly, it is not then acceptable for employers to demand that employees take this as part of their annual leave. Where there is advance notice of snow days, however, an employer can require employees to take the day as a holiday, provided the notice is twice as long as the period of holiday being booked, i.e. two days’ notice for one day holiday. As with the situations above, it is likely that employers will look for suitable solutions to keep all parties happy.
In reality, despite the legal positions, it is more sensible for employers to look for practical solutions to keep everyone happy. Some reasonable suggestions include:
- Where staff can work from home, they should do so;
- Where there are different locations that individuals may be able to work from then employers can request relocation; and
- Offering opportunities for staff to work back time at a later date or to change shifts to ensure that overall no time is lost.