The Law Shop is now closed. Please click here to find out more.

Travel travails – handling commuting issues in winter

Luke Whitmore - Law on the Web

  1. 27 November 2015
  2. Business
  3. 0 comments
Train in the snow

With winter upon us, we’re likely to see more and more transport issues for commuters, ranging from icy roads to cancelled trains. If you run your own business, bad weather can cause chaos in the workplace when your staff are delayed or can’t get in at all. So what employment law regulations are in place when handling transport troubles in winter?

If an employee can’t get to work

There is no law which says you have to pay an employee who can’t get to work due to travel disruption or adverse weather conditions. Of course, it may say in their employment contract that they will be paid under these circumstances, in which case you must honour this. It’s usually not possible or advisable to force an employee to use up annual leave for any days they miss due to travel issues.

While it’s legal not to pay staff who are unable to get into work, it’s usually best to be flexible in these situations. Bad weather is an obstacle which is outside of anyone’s control and it’s inadvisable to create incentives for employees to risk their safety attempting to get to work in poor conditions.

Sometimes, an employee may say they cannot come to work due to school closures forcing them to stay at home and look after their children. If the school was closed at short notice, this would likely constitute an emergency relating to a dependent, in which case they would be entitled to a special kind of time off to deal with this. This type of leave does not have to be paid, though your company may have a different policy.

If disciplinary issues arise due to an employee being unable to get to work (for example, if it is part of a pattern of non-attendance or you suspect they simply chose not to come in), remember to follow a fair procedure when tackling the problem, as you would with any such scenario.

If the office is closed

If you have closed the office because it is inaccessible or not enough staff are able to make it in, you should usually still pay employees for that day. Withholding pay when employees are unable to work through no fault of their own could count as an unauthorised deduction from wages or a serious breach of their contract of employment , and your employees may be able to bring a legal claim against you on this basis.

However, some employment contracts do contain a temporary lay-off clause - if this is the case, you can refuse to pay full pay to employees for a limited time for days when the workplace is not open.

General advice

As travel disruption is likely to occur reliably year after year, it’s recommended that you put a policy in place covering what is expected of employees if the weather prevents them from getting to work. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding non-attendance during bad weather, and staff cannot claim that they are being treated unfairly.

If you suffer from widespread travel issues and the nature of the work allows it, you may want to look into contingency plans allowing employees to work from home instead.

Share your experiences

Please note: The views expressed in community areas of this site do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Law on the Web, its owners, its staff or contributors. All comments are moderated prior to publication.

comments powered by Disqus