Richard Grogan on employment law: Employee absences due to weather conditions

Richard Grogan

In a timely blog, employment law solicitor Richard Grogan of Richard Grogan & Associates writes on employee absences due to weather conditions, transport strikes or major incidents affecting travel or public safety.

As a specialist employment law firm, we have recently been asked, due to unusual weather over the last few months, as to what employers should do in unusual circumstances such as extreme weather conditions.

In this publication we consider what employers might wish to put in place to cover such matters as:

  • Extreme weather, for example snow for flooding;
  • Transport strikes;
  • An ESB strike; or
  • Some other unusual circumstance.
  • Unusual circumstances can arise from time to time. It is necessary to have a policy to deal with this.

    It does not necessarily have to be deemed part of an employee’s contract of employment. Once you decide to have a policy the next step is to clearly communicate this to your employees. The way to communicate you policy is with an appropriate policy document.

    Why have a policy document?

    Having a policy document in place is important when deciding if disciplinary acting is necessary if it is believed an employee has taken advantage of a situation for their own benefit.

    What are your obligations when an employee does not attend at work?

    Normally the rule is that the employer is not obliged to pay the employee where the workplace is open and the employee does not attend, is late or leave early.

    Why would you just not pay the employee if there is an usual circumstance?

    Unusual circumstances arise. They are outside the control of the employee. Creating a positive working environment is important for you as an employer. Simply deciding not to pay because an employee is late or has to leave early because of snow, extreme weather conditions, or because of a transport strike may not create and maintain a good working environment. You therefore need to look at other alternatives. Taking this into account we have set out a possible policy document that you might wish to consider as a starting point.

    Every business is unique. We recognise that. Therefore there is no one policy or procedure which suits every workplace. Any policy must be tailored to the requirements of your workplace.

    What happens if you the employer decides to close the workplace?

    This causes a lot of discussion among lawyers.

    If a premise is closed due to what is termed a “Act of God” such as flooding then you have no obligation to pay the employee.

    If you decide to close your premises because of an ESB strike, a transport strike or inclement weather where the premises could remain open but you decide to close it then you are liable to pay the employee. Common sense is needed.

    Each situation of an unusual absence will be different. A common sense approach will be needed. Where there are clear Health and Safety risks to some employees then different criteria will apply. Some employees may be able to work from home. Others may not.

    You should have a plan in place as to what will happen if any such unusual circumstances arise. Communicating that plan to employees lessens the potential for disputes.

    • Continue reading this blog, including an example company policy statement, on Richard Grogan’s website.
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