Advice on workplace closures
If you are ready, able and willing to travel to work but the workplace is closed, there can be no deduction from salary unless the contract allows the employer to do this. There would have to be a lay-off clause in the contract to the effect that where the employer cannot provide the employee with work, even though s/he is available for work, the contract of employment is temporarily suspended.
The same applies if you are in work and work closes early.
This is the case regardless of whether you are paid an annual salary or hourly. The “contract” referred to above can be the written contract, a separate procedure or implied from custom and practice.
There is legislation covering unlawful deductions from salary. An employer can only make a deduction if the contract allows it or if the employee has agreed. In the case of an unresolved dispute, the employment tribunal time limit is three months from the date of the deduction.
If you are is unable to travel into work you are under an obligation to notify work in the normal way. Failure to do so will result in unauthorised absence and possible disciplinary action.
When you contact work, there are options to discuss with a view to agreement, eg:
- working from home (some local authorities ask school staff to work at their nearest school instead);
- taking leave;
- using time in lieu where this applies;
- making up the time elsewhere;
- reaching a separate agreement with the employer. Both sides are required to be reasonable. Should there be anything in the contract/procedures that will be decisive. Part of the employer's obligation is to treat all employees in the same situation in the same way.
Make a note of calls and the conclusions/agreements reached.
If there is a family emergency due to the weather, employees will in any event be entitled to take reasonable time off work as dependents’ leave.
- DfE’s advice (December 2010)
- Teachernet's guidance on keeping schools open in bad weather (January 2010).
- Oqual and exams (December 2010): Contingency plans for January 2011 exams (England, Wales, Northern Ireland)
Let us know about your experiences…