Open the Floodgates!!!

Open the floodgates - employment issues arising from the recent floods & severe weather -

Normally absence in severe weather conditions is considered to be an unauthorised absence. However, employers need to tread very carefully.

Should you paid for an employee's absence due to the weather? No, unless you decide to pay the employee or his/her contract provides for a payment to be made. 

Can I dismiss or discipline an absent employee due to weather conditions? It will depend on the circumstances of the absence. However, if an employee is trying to prevent their homes from being flooded a dismissal or disciplinary sanction is likely to be unfair. Was their absence genuinely caused by the weather? Was it reasonable for them not to attend work? How long did the period of absence last? What was the effect on the business? 

Even if a business is incapacitated by the weather you will still need to pay your employees. If your contracts of employment allow for lay off then you may be able to tell employees to stay away from work without pay (statutory guarantee payments will still apply). In the absence of a lay-off clause such action would be a breach of contract leading to unfair constructive dismissal and unlawful deduction from wages claims. 

You could ask your employees to take their annual leave, however you would need to take into account the minimum notice period required under the law to require them to take the legal. Also, there may be issues as to breaching "mutual trust and confidence" which in turn to lead to an unfair constructive dismissal claim. 

In summary, you should examine your contractual documentation to see what processes are in place to ensure that you are well prepared to deal with such an emergency. If in doubt seek legal advice.

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