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Employment Law: Christmas and workplace issues Q&A (Part 2)

View profile for Chris Amys
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Q: What is the effect of adverse weather during Christmas?

Adverse weather during the Christmas period can present its own problems to an employer, especially when it results in travel disruption.

If an employee is unable to attend work due to adverse weather, they are not automatically entitled to paid leave. The same position applies to an employee arriving late to work due to travel delays.

Most Contracts of Employment will confirm an employee is only entitled to be paid for work done. In these circumstances, an employer could withhold pay on days an employee fails to attend work.

In the absence of a contractual clause confirming employees will only be paid for work done or allowing an employer to make deductions from an employee’s pay, an employee could issue proceedings against their employer for unlawful deduction from wages if pay is withheld.

Some employers take a flexible approach, such as working hours or location of work, especially if this helps staff morale.

Even if an employer is affected by adverse weather, they should treat all disruptions to the workplace fairly and consistently in order to avoid any potential discrimination claim.

Q: What happens if an employee is unable to attend work due to a school or nursery closure?

Often there is confusion when employees are unable to attend work as their child’s school or nursery has closed due to adverse weather. In the circumstances, it is highly likely the employee will have to remain at home to care for their child.

Employers are obliged to allow employees to take to take reasonable unpaid time off work to deal with emergency situations in relation to their dependents. It is likely that school and nursery closures as a result of adverse weather will amount to an emergency situation. As such, employees should be entitled to take time off work.

Any time off work is unpaid unless the employer agrees otherwise, either expressly or implied through custom and practice. Alternatively an employee could take the time off work as annual leave.

Q: What happens if an employer decides to close the business for the day due to adverse weather?

Employers owe a duty of care to their employees. As such, if the authorities are telling people to stay at home unless their journey is essential, they may need to consider whether they will require employees to travel to work.

As a result, a decision could be taken to close the business for the day, which will effectively be a period of lay-off. Unless an employer has a contractual entitlement to lay off employees, an employee will be entitled to their usual salary during any shutdown period.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch with Sally Morris at or on 01905 610410.