Advice for workplaces during severe weather events
Severe weather events can impact on an employee’s ability to report for work and an employer’s ability to operate his/her business and to be able to provide work.
The employment contract may specify when an employee cannot attend work because of extreme weather events.
Is the employer obliged to pay the employee?
In general, there is no statutory entitlement for an employee to be paid if they cannot attend work because of extreme weather. Any more beneficial arrangement is a matter for agreement between the employer and the employee.
Employers are encouraged to take a long-term view of the working relationship, recognising that demonstrating concern for the welfare of employees and treating employees fairly translates into a better working environment to the benefit of both the staff and the employer.
Can an employee take annual leave days to cover the unforeseen absence from work?
Employers may allow employees take annual leave for the day or days covered by the event in which case they would be paid.
Can an employee take unpaid leave to cover the absence from work because of an extreme weather event?
This arrangement is a matter for agreement between the employer and the employee.
What happens where a roster needs to be changed at short notice?
Normally, employees are entitled to notice of at least 24 hours of a roster change. However, this does not apply in exceptional circumstances as with extreme weather events.
What happens where the employer is unable to either open the premises for a few days or weeks because of the emergency or where there is no work – for example when there is a prolonged big freeze or a flood?
In these circumstances the employer may put employees on a period of ‘layoff’. An employer may lay off employees when there is no work available for a temporary period with that employer. If employees are laid-off then the employer is not obliged to pay employees. Laid-off employees may be entitled to Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance from the Department of Social Protection for the days they are not working.
Terms and Conditions of Employment (Contract), why is this so important?
Employers may have included policies and procedures in their contracts of employment to cover severe weather events which may include:
– The taking of annual leave for the days absent to avoid employee loss of earnings
– Agreement to work back the hours / days lost
– Alternative opening days or trading hours on a day where the business is normally closed
– Working from home where feasible and practical
– Working from an alternative location where feasible and practical
– Or other beneficial arrangements