With Storm Emma, better known in the media as the Beast from the East, hitting most parts of the country, the question on what an employer should do in a situation where their employees can’t come to work is arising frequently.
During the coming days employees may contact their employer to state that snow or ice will prevent their attendance at work. This could be the result of road closures, dangerous road conditions, or cancellation of public transport services due to the prevailing weather conditions.
During severe weather, employees have no automatic right in law to remain at home on full or reduced pay. The employee is expected to make every reasonable effort to attend work as scheduled, within the parameters of ensuring their health & safety.
If an employee feels they are unable to attend work due to inclement weather, they must contact the workplace at the earliest opportunity to explain their position.
On that call, the employee should be asked to explain what, if any, steps they have taken to attend work that day.
A decision should be made as to the reasonableness and legitimacy of the explanations given. If weather persists for more than one day, the employee must call each day to give an update, and their position should be reassessed.
If the employer has good reason to suspect that the employee’s position is not genuine or legitimate, the employer should instruct the employee that they are expected to attend work.
If the employee does not attend, they should be considered to be absent without authorisation, and the employer should make recourse to their disciplinary policy & procedure.
If, during inclement weather, the employee does not contact the workplace at all, that employee should be considered to be absent without authorisation, and the employer should make recourse to their disciplinary policy & procedure.
If the employer considers the employee’s position to be reasonable and legitimate, the following options are available to be offered to the employee:
- Annual Leave – if the employee still has annual leave available, the employer may offer that the employee can opt to take that day as annual leave.
- Unpaid Leave – the employee would be granted the day off work, but they would not receive payment for that day.
- Remain at Home & Receive Pay – the employee could be paid as normal, even though they have not attended work. This option is available to employers, but would not be recommended, as it may set an unfavourable precedent for the employer moving forward.
- Working from Home – for certain employees in certain industries, it may be possible for the employee to work from home rather than travel to the workplace. However, such employees must still contact the workplace as soon as possible and should not make a unilateral decision on their part.
- Overtime – for certain employees in certain industries, it may be possible for the employee to “make up” the lost time by working overtime on other days – for example, working an extra hour each day until the time is made up. It is for the employer and employee to agree the parameters of any such arrangement. Caution must be exercised to ensure Working Time rules are not breached.
For each option outlined above, the agreement of employees is required. A unilateral decision by the employer cannot be made.
For any queries you have in relation to employees and adverse weather conditions please contact the advice line on +353 1 886 0350.