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Employees late due to bad weather - can you dock their pay?

With bad weather in the form of snow, ice and floods becoming an annual occurrence in the UK, more and more employers are asking the question "do I have to pay employees that can't make it in to work on time?"

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With bad weather in the form of snow, ice and floods becoming an annual occurrence in the UK, more and more employers are asking the question "do I have to pay employees that can't make it in to work on time?" Employers are faced with difficult legal and practical issues in deciding whether staff must be paid if they cannot get into work. An employer may lawfully make a deduction from salary when: they have an express contractual right to do so it is authorised by statute e.g. PAYE the employee has previously signified in writing their consent to the deduction the employee has refused to perform all his or her duties. Common specific contractual clauses giving the employer the right to deduct from salary concern: overpayment of wages or expenses unauthorised absences loans losses caused by the employee's breach of duties or negligence (eg. damaging company property) any other amount that the employee owes, such as overpaid holiday, from the final salary payment. In the case of bad weather – assuming the business stays open – if the employee fails to get to work, the employer is under no legal obligation to pay them. Parents who miss work to look after their children due to school closures have the right to take unpaid leave for a ‘reasonable' amount of time to put in place other childcare arrangements. But docking pay, particularly without adequate communication, can profoundly affect staff morale and attitudes. Alternatives that employers may consider include: allowing the employee to work from home, if this is possible allowing the employee to take the day as annual leave asking the employee to make up the time paying the employee for the day. In short, the situation is complex and the best approach is to have consistent employment procedures and good communication and consultation with staff. About the author Marjorie Hurwitz Bremner is Human Resources Principal, Berg Kaprow Lewis LLP and co-chair of the UK200Group HR Forums.

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