No matter how sophisticated your business may be, severe weather
conditions impose unique and unpredictable challenges. Preparing to
address these issues before they occur will be key to
effectively managing them.
While the challenges that can arise will vary vastly between
workplaces, this blog will highlight some of the more common
questions we hear from employer.
The issues presented by extreme weather are numerous. For
example, severe weather may stimulate employee absenteeism/lateness
or, if employees typically work outside, the employer might be
faced with unique obligations under occupational health and safety
When facing such an unpredictable foe, there is one thing that
every employer can do to avoid last minute frustration –
create a policy before the challenges arise.
The Basics for a Policy
At a minimum, an employer's severe weather policy should
address the following questions:
Will employees be paid if severe weather prevents them from
attending their usual place of work? If not, can employees use
their vacation (or other paid time off) to offset the loss?
How and when should an employee inform the employer that the
weather is preventing him or her from attending work?
When faced with severe weather, are employees expected to work
from home or telecommute?
Who will decide if the business should be closed?
How will any closure be communicated to employees?
If the business is closed for the day, will the employees
receive any compensation?
Developing a severe weather policy will help employers avoid
getting caught without a jacket in the proverbial snowstorm.
(1) Do I have to pay an employee who does not report for
work because of severe weather?
When you peel back everything else, the foundation of an
employment relationship is that an employee trades his or her
personal services to an employer in exchange for compensation.
Although there are a number of exceptions, including situations
where the employee's agreement dictates otherwise, if an
employee isn't providing services through no fault of the
employer, an employer does not have to pay.
However, the employer/employee relationship goes beyond the
law. Many employers opt to allow employees to use their
entitlements to paid time off (such as vacation or paid sick leave)
to cover these types of absences. Depending on whether it's
practical for the business, an employer might also want to explore
flexible work options like working remotely.
(2) If I choose to close down my operations for the day, do
I have to pay my employees?
The decision to close down operations in the event of inclement
weather rests solely with employer. Again, subject to certain
exceptions (such as a written policy, agreement or the provision of
a collective agreement), as long as the employer informs the
employees before they report to work, the employer is not
obligated to pay employees on days when they are not providing
services. Where providing sufficient notice is untenable, the
employer may still have to pay. For instance, if the employee
reports to work and then is immediately sent home, the employer may
have some obligations. Under provincial employment standards
legislation, an employee may be entitled to "call out" or
"reporting" pay. The existence and calculation of
statutory reporting pay differs between provinces.
In Ontario, this requirement is commonly known as the
"three-hour rule." If an employee regularly works more
than three hours a day and is required to report for work, the
employee is entitled to be paid the greater of (i) three hours at
the minimum wage or (ii) the employee's regular wage
for the time worked.
For example, if a retail employee is paid $11.00/hour, reports
to work and is sent home after only two hours, then he or she would
be entitled to compensation of three hours of minimum wage ($10.25
x 3 = $30.75) instead of his or her regular wage for the hours
worked ($11.00 x 2 = $22.00).
Ontario's employment standards legislation provides an
exemption to the three hour rule if the employer is unable
to provide work because of "fire, lightning, power failure,
storms or similar causes beyond the employer's control that
result in the stopping of work."
It's worth noting that, just like in the question above,
choosing to close down operations and then not paying employees
could lead to a bitter relationship. To avoid frustrated employees,
an employer has to carefully manage expectations. An employee who
is informed of the employer's policy well in advance, is far
less likely to be frustrated or disappointed. In addition, the
employer may want to consider certain mitigating options, such as
partial pay for the date of closure.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).