The arrival of severe snow and ice conditions across the country this week may lead to difficulties for employees getting to work and businesses staying open.

We take a look at what employers can do to prepare, including whether employers are obliged to pay employees who can't attend work during this time.

What should employers do to prepare?

With the worst of the weather not expected to reach Ireland until Wednesday, employers have an opportunity to put measures in place to prepare for it now.

We recommend employers:

  • ensure they have up-to-date contact details for all employees so they can be contacted in advance if the business has to close
  • ensure employee safety by keeping up-to-date with developments from Met Éireann and taking heed of any travel warnings which may come from Met Éireann, an Garda Síochána or the government
  • organise their workflows for the middle to latter part of the week in a way which will enable more flexible working arrangements for employees, if possible
  • review, and implement as appropriate, any relevant policies which may be in place relating to absences or closures due to unforeseen events
  • if there is no policy is in place, consider and communicate to employees, if appropriate, how time-off during this time will be treated. For example, the employer may:

    • continue to pay employees as normal
    • require the employee to work from home
    • allow employees to take the missed time from their paid annual leave entitlement, or
    • agree that employees can make up the missed time at a later date

Are employers obliged to pay employees during this period?

Where employees are not required to attend at work, for example, because the employer has closed for the day or the employer asks them not to come in or to leave early, then employees should be paid as normal.

Where the employer's business remains open and employees are unable to attend due to safety concerns or because they need to take care of children who are off school, then, strictly speaking and subject to any custom and practice in operation within the employer, there is no obligation on employers to pay employees during this time.

Can employers discipline employees who don't make it in to work?

If an employee is genuinely affected by the severe weather then employers should not discipline employees.

If an employer suspects that an employee is simply taking advantage of the severe weather and is using it as an excuse not to come to work, it is open to the employer to implement its disciplinary procedure, following an appropriate investigation.

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.