As Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland yesterday bringing with it a red status weather warning across the country, many Irish businesses closed their doors advising staff to stay at home. The decision came after it was announced that all schools and universities were to shut for the duration of the weather warning. Transport services across the nation were cancelled, while major supermarkets chains and large stores closed their doors.
Are employers obliged to pay an employee during this time?
Where an employer closes its doors for the day or has asked the employee not to come into work/or leave early due to safety concerns, then the employee should be paid as normal.
However, if the business were to remain open but the employee was unable to make the journey to work, or if a parent had to remain at home to look after their children when the schools are closed, then strictly speaking in these circumstances the employer has no obligation to pay the employee. We would advise employers to be as flexible as possible in these situations and to consider the effect it may have on staff morale if you were to deduct pay due to circumstances beyond the employee's control.
So what options are there for employers when employees miss work due to bad weather?
• To pay staff as normal for the time off
• To allow employees to work from home where possible
• To allow employees to work up the time missed at a later date
• To allow employees to be paid from their paid annual leave entitlement. It should be noted that although a good solution, forcing this option without prior agreement with the employee is not best practice.
Employers are advised to have a policy in place to cover absence due to inclement weather events addressing what would happen in the event of an employee being unable to attend work due to bad weather conditions. Including such a policy in your company handbook and ensuring all staff is aware of it will limit confusion and disagreements when such situations arise.