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Absence during extreme weather events

Extreme and severe weather events can impact on an employee’s ability to report for work and an employer’s ability to operate his/her business and to be able to provide work.

The following information may be of assistance where the contract of employment or the statement of terms of employment does not specifically deal with the issue.

When an employee cannot attend work because of extreme weather events, is the employer obliged to pay the employee?

In general, there is no statutory entitlement for an employee to be paid if they cannot attend work because of extreme weather. Any more beneficial arrangement is a matter for agreement between the employer and the employee.

Employers are encouraged to take a long-term view of the working relationship, recognising that demonstrating concern for the welfare of employees and treating employees fairly translates into a better working environment to the benefit of both the staff and the employer.

Can an employee take annual leave days to cover the unforeseen absence from work?

Employers may allow employees take annual leave for the day or days covered by the event in which case they would be paid.

Can an employee take unpaid leave to cover the absence from work because of an extreme weather event?

This arrangement is a matter for agreement between the employer and the employee.

What happens where a roster needs to be changed at short notice?

Normally, employees are entitled to notice of at least 24 hours of a roster change. However, this does not apply in exceptional circumstances as with extreme weather events.

What happens where the employer is unable to either open the premises for a few weeks because of the emergency or where there is no work – for example when there is a flood?

In these circumstances the employer may  put employees on a period of 'layoff'.  An employer may lay off employees when  there is no work available  for a temporary period with that employer. If employees are laid-off then the employer is not obliged to pay employees. Laid-off employees may be entitled to Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance from the Department of Social Protection for the days they are not working.

Terms and Conditions of Employment

Employers may have included policies and procedures  in their contracts of employment to cover severe weather events which may include:

  • The taking of annual leave for the days absent to avoid employee loss of earnings
  • Agreement to work back the hours / days lost
  • Alternative opening days on a day where the business is normally closed
  • Working from home where feasible and practical
  • Working from an alternative location where feasible and practical
  • Or other beneficial arrangements
Resolving Issues

We would encourage employers and employees to seek to resolve any issue at the level of the employment.

Where issues cannot be resolved locally, the employee may make a complaint under either the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 or the Payment of Wages Act 1991 or other relevant enactment to the Workplace Relations Commission Where the employer and employee are agreeable, the Commission may seek to resolve the matter by means of mediation. Otherwise, the complaint will be investigated by an Adjudication Officer. Every case is fact-specific.

If you wish to seek additional information on your situation you may speak with an Information Officer of the Workplace Relations Commission at 0818 80 80 90 or 059 917 8990, Monday to Friday 9:30am to 5pm. The service is available for both employers and employees.