Winter weather and work: five common employer queries

With parts of the UK experiencing heavy snowfall, Personnel Today answer five common questions from employers on the workplace impact of severe weather conditions.

1. Do I have to pay employees who cannot get to work because of severe weather?

In principle, you would be within your rights to refuse to pay an employee who does not appear for work because of severe weather such as heavy snow.

This is because an employee who is not working is not fulfilling his or her contract of employment, and so you do not have to pay him or her.

This is the case even if the employee’s non-appearance is out of his or her control, for example because of extreme weather conditions.

However, this is one of those employment scenarios where the letter of law says one thing, but common sense dictates a more pragmatic approach.

The financial burden on your business of paying staff even though they are not working because of bad weather may be outweighed by the benefits.

Staff morale and your reputation as a good employer may benefit in the long run if you pay staff on a snow day.

2. What are my options if I need employees to work even though the weather is bad?

In this day and age, many jobs can be done from home, and employees who frequently work at home should be encouraged to do so when bad weather approaches.

However, employers need to be careful about asking employees to work at home when a requirement to do so is not included in their contracts of employment.

If it is not, to require an employee to work at home in severe weather will constitute a unilateral variation of contracts of employment requiring consultation in advance with affected staff.

Employers should also consider the health and safety aspects of home working before imposing a home working requirement: some employees’ homes will simply not be set up to be turned into a temporary workplace.

3. Can employees take periods when they cannot get to work because of poor weather as annual leave?

Where employees are unable to get to work because of bad weather, taking the time as paid annual leave may be an option.

There is nothing to stop you asking if employees would like to take extra holiday if they are unable to get to work.

Many employees will find taking paid holiday preferable to losing a day’s pay.

However, there may be circumstances in which this might not be possible. For example, where the employee wishes to keep their leave for a foreign holiday.

If you are going to insist that employees take the time as holiday, you must give them the minimum statutory notice.

4: If I close my workplace because of bad weather, do I have to pay my staff?

If employees are working from home, you must pay them their normal wages.

If an employee is unable to work because you have made the decision to close the premises, this will in effect be a period of lay-off.

You should pay your employees their normal wage, unless there is a contractual provision allowing for unpaid lay-off, or the employees agree to being laid off without pay.

5. I have employees with children at schools and nurseries that are closed because of the severe weather. Do I have to give them time off when they have nowhere to put their children?

Employees have the statutory right to a reasonable period of unpaid time off for dependants.

The right applies where an employee needs to take time off work because of unexpected disruption to the care arrangements for a dependant.

The right to time off for dependants would clearly apply where schools or nurseries close because of severe weather.

An employee taking advantage of this right must inform you of the reason for the absence, and likely length of the absence, as soon as he or she can.


Full article and commentary can be found on Personnel Today

Gig economy: Pimlico Plumbers case heard at Supreme Court

The Supreme Court hears a key gig economy case today as Pimlico Plumbers challenges last year’s Court of Appeal decision that a plumber who signed an agreement with the company describing him as self-employed was in fact a worker.

A year ago, in Pimlico Plumbers Ltd and another v Smith, the Court of Appeal ruled that the plumber was a worker under statutory provisions entitling him to rights as a worker.

Gary Smith was required under the agreement to wear a Pimlico Plumbers uniform, use a van leased from the company, displaying its logo and equipped with a GPS tracker. He also had to work a minimum number of hours per week.

However, he could choose when he worked, which jobs he would attend, but had to provide his own tools and equipment, and handle his own tax and insurance.

Mr Smith brought an employment tribunal claim that was dependent on him being classified as a “worker”.

When Mr Smith’s case reached the Court of Appeal, it accepted that he was a worker, entitling him to some basic employment rights such as the right to be paid the national minimum wage and holiday pay.

The Court of Appeal was swayed in particular by the claimant’s requirement to provide his services personally. His agreement with Pimlico Plumbers did not allow him to substitute someone else to do the work.

Charlie Mullins, chief executive of Pimlico Plumbers, said: “The outcome of the case will have huge ramifications for a large part of the economy, including the media, the health service, and of course the construction industry…

“In one three-year period Mr Smith earned more than £500,000 as a self-employed contractor, but when his circumstances changed he wanted me to foot the bill for sick and holiday pay, as well as to grant him other employment rights, which he was not entitled to, and which in my view he had already been paid to take care of for himself.”

Mullins claimed the case is not like Uber and other gig economy cases. “The engineers who contract to Pimlico Plumbers are very highly-skilled individuals, can go anywhere and do whatever they want…

Full article at

Parents reveal struggle to balance work and home life

“Almost one in five (18%) working parents have deliberately slowed down their career progression as they have struggled to balance their working life with their responsibilities at home.

According to the 2018 Modern Families Index, published by work-life charity Working Families and childcare provider Bright Horizons, parents are being pushed to “breaking point” by their employment, with many working more than their contracted hours because they feel it is expected of them.

Of the parents contracted to work 35-36 hours per week, 40% claimed they were putting in extra hours. A third of those people said they were working an extra seven hours a week – the equivalent to an extra working day.

Almost half (47%) of the 2,761 parents surveyed admitted that their work affected their ability to spend time with their family. To address this, 11% said they had refused a new job and 10% had rejected a promotion.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said a more flexible approach to work that went beyond current flexible working arrangements was required to help parents improve their work/life balance.

She said: “We need human-sized jobs that allow parents to fulfil their labour market potential and give families back the time together they need to thrive. This should be central to the Government’s forthcoming review of its right to request flexible working legislation.

“Parents are responding to the pressures on them by deliberately stalling and downshifting their careers. With more than 11 million working parents in the UK, our economy can ill afford this ‘parenthood penalty’. Our findings should be a wake-up call for UK PLCs.”

The survey found that 44% of working parents felt flexible working was a genuine option in their workplace. Among those with a flexible working arrangement, 37% said they still felt burnt out most of the time.”

Full article can be found at

When you consider this from a HR And Resourcing angle, it seems a little short sighted to not to have a more open approach to flexible and smart working practices.  This is not just for those with family and child care responsibilities, but increasingly flexible working is becoming a decision point for many people when looking at new employment opportunities.  I personally work from home on a Wednesday as it breaks up my week and means that I don’t mind an extended commute the other days of the week.  If that balance was not there, then some of the areas I cover would not be so feasible.

Having worked in HR Recruitment since 2005, I have always championed flexible working as quite simply my clients are often able to get higher quality HR support for the same budget as someone working on a traditional arrangement.  A candidate at a 50k salary level working 4 days a week, is in effect the same cost as a 40k candidate working 5 days a week.  The technology is clearly there for people to work easily from home and so in the vast majority of cases it is a cultural issue as opposed to a proper business case.

If you trust your people enough to hire them, then trust them enough to have a say in how they deliver for you!


“Paul Withers is an experienced HR Recruiter with extensive exposure gained across a diverse range of industry sectors. Equally happy working at entry through to director level, he is well placed to advise on any recruitment or job search challenges that you may be currently facing.

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HR Tech World – Gary Vaynerchuk Keynote

This a very interesting watch and so refreshing to see a CEO that puts people and culture so firmly at the centre of his business plan.  We all appreciate that the books have to be balanced, but ultimately people drive profit and making the right hires, ensuring personal development and managing exits effectively is key to achieving this.

Investing time in people, showing empathy and creating a culture free of politics is backed by sound economic reasoning as a flexible and engaged workforce, will be able to respond quicker and more effectively to business challenges which in turn will make a significant difference to the overall bottom line.