Snow stopped play?


Traffic Jam

Many people struggle bravely in to work when it snows, while others stay at home.  Some work from home, whilst others have no option but to take care of their children as schools close.  Some workplaces close due to bad weather, and others open.


Who has a right to be paid?

The UK has a remarkably flexible labour market, and the answer depends on what type of contract you have got with your staff, and whether you keep the workplace open. There is no general right for employees who don’t turn up for work to be paid, and if you open your workplace and the do not turn up, you may not be obliged to pay.  Many employers do pay more than they are required to, but it is important to know when you are choosing to pay more, and when you have to pay.

Workplace remained open (hourly paid workers)

If the workplace remains open as usual, and the employees fails to make it in to work due to travel difficulties, they are not automatically entitled to be paid for their absence.  If they turn up late and they decide to go home early, they are entitled to be paid for the hours they actually work.

If you send the employee home early, this has the same effect as closing the workplace for part of the day (see below).

Employees can ask you to allow them to take the day(s) as paid leave.  You are not obliged to authorise paid leave retrospectively but if you do so, make sure the holiday records are kept properly up to date.   You cannot decide to make this a day’s leave without the employee’s consent.

Employees who have to remain home to make arrangements for their children when the schools shut are entitled to unpaid dependants’ leave.  They are only entitled to be paid for the time off if you have a contract or a policy that says they are.

Workplace shut

You are only entitled to withhold pay for a lay-off period (when the workplace is closed) if your contract with the employee gives you that right.  Check your contracts carefully.

If your contracts do provide for ‘unpaid layoffs’, employees are still entitled to guaranteed pay at the appropriate rate for the first five days lay off in any 3 month period.  For these purposes a day’s lay off is a day when less than 50% of ordinary work was provided.  Employees are entitled to 50% of their normal basic pay subject to a maximum of £21.50 per day.

Working at home

Many employers have working systems that mean employees could work from home – either as part of their normal working from home routine, or on an emergency basis.  These individuals are working and should be paid for the time they were working.

Salaried staff

There is an historic tradition in the UK (fading fast) that distinguishes between staff on annual or monthly salaries, and those on an hourly rate – the old ‘white collar-blue collar’ divide.  Traditionally salaried staff are not paid by the hour, do not receive overtime when they work more hours, nor receive a deduction when they work less.

These staff are viewed as being paid for service, rather than for the particular work performed.   This group of individuals is generally entitled to pay unless the contract provides otherwise.  You should check your contracts carefully.   This applies even if no work is actually performed or where the employee is prevented from working due to factors beyond their control, as long as the employee remains ready and willing to serve the employer.  Ready and willing would normally mean making an effort to get to work where it is safe to do so.   Locally based staff who could have made it in would not be automatically entitled to pay if they did not turn up.

Many organisations no longer feel comfortable about having a two tier contract system, and increasingly have one single status contract that applies to all.  So it’s possible your hourly paid staff may be in the same contractual position as salaried staff.  A lot depends on what your contracts say.

Annual hours and flexi-hours contracts

Check the terms of your contracts – it may be that time not worked does not count for payment, and missed work will have to be performed at another time.

Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy.   Tel: 08452 303050  Fax: 08452 303060  Website :  You can follow Annabel on twitter –


Filed under contract, employment law, flexible working, pay

7 responses to “Snow stopped play?

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  3. @networkerplus

    Thanks for sharing Annabel,

    The lid of my laptop was certainly cold when I switched it on in my lounge this morning!

    No, seriously – I cannot believe the lack of trust that prevails in some organisations. Up until 17 months ago, I was an Account Director for BT Global Services. When I joined them in 2001, they already had a culture of letting their staff work from home (where it was feasible for both parties, of course). What underpinned this was TRUST. The thinking was that, as objectives and targets were already set, staff could work from anywhere they liked (within reason!) as long as they were contactable. I was in a customer-facing role and, if I couldn’t meet my customers due to the weather, I would arrange conference calls / video conferences – if THEY had it (another can of worms!)

    This practice / culture worked so well, that we ‘packaged’ this as one of our many propositions for corporate customers. It was a real eye-opener. Few would embrace this – the majority wouldn’t. Common reason: Lack of trust! Most of the staff wanted it (even if was just 2 days a week, but many decision makers refused. Even when the government introduced new legislation, in the early naughties, (you know – special dispensation for parents with young / disabled children), many companies would come up with all sorts of excuses to help their staff.

    I have little time or sympathy for organisations that don’t allow this – where they have positions that are suited for homeworking. IMHO, there’s no excuse. We have all the technology we require and never had it so good as far as being able to use it. It should be in every company’s contingency plan. When I worked at Debenhams HQ, we had a first class contingency plan – primarily due to the IRA bombs going off / threats in London’s West End at the time. That was years ago and most of us didn’t have internet in our homes when the plans were implemented!

    Blimey – Boris has had a haircut! Back to catching up on the news, coffee and, of course, work!

    Keep safe and warm everyone!


  4. Thanks Annabel – this is a really useful summary of the position – here’s to flexibility. I can remember the time when in the old DHSS, staff were expected to report to their nearest ‘local office’ if they could. This led to some quite bizarre situations with senior HQ staff being set to sort post for a day because they knew nothing about the basic administration of Social Security (may account for something out there!)! They would have been much better working at home or even taking a day of rest to set them up for the challenges ahead. I’d like to think the old attitudes have gone but experience suggests not. We still give a prize to the worthy soul who spends three hours travelling in and then leaves an hour later to be certain of being able to get home again safely. It is noble but not quite sensible!

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  7. Not everyone can do their job on a computer. Teachers, nurses, doctors, vets, police, bus and train drivers, builders and other trades all have to turn up to work – they can’t do it remotely!

    Retail workers can’t fill shelves from home and lorry drivers can’t deliver food from home.

    There are limits to the homeworking possibilities – even in a service economy!

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