As the winter months approach, getting to work could become a problem for some people affected by snow, winter storms or heavy flooding.

We saw in 2018 how The Beast from the East and Storm Emma brought freezing temperatures, snow, high winds and travel chaos.

Employers should talk to their employees about any difficulties commuting and possible ways of working around it, which could be working from home, taking holiday or making time up at a later date.

Home working has become more routine during the pandemic if they can use a computer or laptop.

Employees are not automatically entitled to pay if they’re unable to get to work because of bad weather. Guidance is available from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) about winter weather – travel disruption.

However, should the office have to close because of the weather, employees are being prevented from working. In this case, unless their contract specifies otherwise, they will need to be paid in full for any work they miss due to the closure of the workplace.

Government guidance over disruption by poor weather includes:

Offering a paid leave option for staff

Employers can ask staff to take paid holiday (annual leave) if they give the correct notice. This must be at least double the length of time they want employees to take in annual leave. So for one day’s annual leave it would be two days notice.

The employment contract may set down a different notice period and if so, this will usually apply.

Flexible working

Employers may ask flexible workers to work from home or make up time later. Unless the employment contract says so, employers cannot insist on this.

If the workplace is closed

If the workplace is closed because of disruption and the employee does not usually work from home, employers cannot usually deduct pay. Employers might be able to ask staff to go to another workplace or work from home.

Looking after children

If an employee’s child’s school is closed or their normal childcare arrangements are disrupted, they could have the right for time off to look after them. This should be agreed between the employee and the employer.

Staying in contact with staff

Should an employer need to close the office, for example, they will need to tell everyone via personal contact, not just a work email, as employees may not have access (or choose not to) to work emails and phone outside of working hours.

Rights about travel disruption can be outlined in the employment contract to avoid any confusion or concern later down the line.

Need advice on employee attendance? Let’s have a chat.