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Unforeseen Circumstances Affecting Normal Employment Situations

Unforeseen Circumstances Affecting Normal Employment Situations

 The recent extreme weather events have in some cases impacted on an employer’s ability to operate his/her business and to be able to provide work and on an employee’s ability to report for 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?

There is no legal entitlement for that employee to be paid where they cannot attend for work. 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 have employees take annual leave for the day or days covered by the event, in which case they would be paid. Normally there must be a months’ notice of the employer’s intention to have employees take annual leave; however, the employee may agree to a shorter notice period.

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

This arrangement is a matter for agreement between the employer and the employee. However, the employee might need to check the impact of taking unpaid leave on their ability to claim social welfare benefits for that period of unpaid service.

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 where the change arises from unforeseen circumstances justifying a change in the notification period.

What happens where the employer is unable to either open the premises because of the unforeseen emergency or where there is no work?

If the employer has put employees on a period of 'layoff' because there is no work available and where they are clear it is of a temporary nature and that the employee can expect to return to work in the future, then the employer is not obliged to pay employees. However, eligible employees may be entitled to Social Welfare benefits. 

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 to the Workplace Relations Commission. Where the employer and employer are agreeable, the Commission may seek to resolve the matter by means of mediation. Otherwise, the complaint will be investigated by an Adjudication Officer.

If you wish to seek additional information on your situation you may speak with an Information Officer of the Workplace Relations Commission at 1890 80 80 90 or 059 917 8990, Monday to Friday 9:30am to 5pm. The service is available for both employers and employees. Information is also available on


Workplace Relations Commission


17th October, 2017