Winter Working

19th December 2017

As we head deeper into the winter months and with some employers already having faced the difficulties presented by extreme winter weather conditions such as we had in the early part of December, Personnel Today have highlighted some of the key employment queries employers may have when faced with such conditions.

If an employee is unable to attend work due to severe weather conditions, an employer is technically under no obligation to pay. If an employee cannot undertake their work (with no ability to work from home), they are not fulfilling their contract of employment. However, many employers will be aware of the need to be sensible in such a scenario. Withholding pay in such circumstances is likely to result in low staff morale and a poor company reputation. Therefore, employers should think strongly about withholding pay.

If employees work from home then they should be paid. If an office or premises has been closed due to adverse weather, this will result in a period of short term lay off. Employees should be paid for such lay off unless they consent to unpaid lay off or there is a contractual provision allowing for a period of unpaid lay off.

What if the business needs employees to work?

Modern technology provides employers with a real opportunity to keep businesses running throughout extreme weather scenarios. The ability to work from home is the primary method of ensuring that employees can continue to work.

Employers need to ensure that they have complied with their health and safety obligations in order to ensure that employees can safely work from home. In addition, it is also advisable to have a mobility clause within a contract of employment in order to ensure that an employee can be required to work from home.

Annual Leave and Winter Weather

If severe weather is such that an employee cannot get to work, they can take the day as paid leave. Employees may prefer to take such paid leave as opposed to missing a day’s paid work. If an employer would prefer an employee to take paid leave and the employee is unwilling to take paid leave, the employer would need to give adequate notice in order for the employee to take the day as leave.


Many employees will have childcare responsibilities. When schools and nurseries are closed due to adverse weather, employees have a right to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off for dependants where necessary. Any unexpected incidents which involves an employee’s child during school (i.e. school closure) is specified as a necessary reason for a reasonable amount of unpaid time off.


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