With the weather forecast yesterday we received some questions about what to do if staff can’t work because of the weather (or other events outside of their control).

The easiest way to address this uncertainty is in employment agreements or policies. They should state clearly the circumstances in which employees will, or won’t, be paid.

If there is nothing written into a policy or employment agreement, the following general rules apply:

  • If the business was operating but the employee was unable to get to work, there wouldn’t normally be an obligation to pay them for the time they should have worked.
  • If the business was unable to function whilst the employee was ready and available to work their contracted hours, they would usually be entitled to be paid for that time, even if the employer had to send them home because they couldn’t operate.

If employees are used to receiving set pay for set hours of work, and the business can afford it, the goodwill afforded by paying them over a short period of down time could outweigh the savings gained from not paying. On the other hand however, for smaller businesses operating with small margins, paying wages while a business is unable to function can be a difficult cost to absorb. Seeing if you can reach agreement that an employee does something other than their normal job in these situations, to help get the business back to normal quickly, is a valuable option to consider. Another option to consider is seeing if the employee would like to take annual leave to cover a day they couldn’t get to work.

For all businesses, it is good practice to consider how best to approach these situations and clearly communicate this to all employees. Any changes to employment agreements need to be negotiated, but policies can be introduced or amended after consultation with employees (where their agreement is not required). Having a clear plan in place means when the unexpected happens, there is one less thing for employers to worry about whilst dealing with the problem and getting back on their feet.

For more information or advice you can contact ER Resolutions on 022 513 1269 or enquiries@erresolutions.co.nz.