Employer/Employee Questions re Hurricane Ophelia

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There continues to be a large number of questions regarding working arrangements after Hurricane Ophelia
This summary , in the form of questions and answers, may be of assistance. We have posted this information before in response to questions but this is a little more detailed.
Due to the exceptional circumstances that prevailed we would hope that a balance can be struck between the needs of employees and employers and empathy and understanding prevail given the circumstances but each service is different with different contracts and policies.
If I close my service or close it early and send staff home am I obliged to pay them?
If an employer sends staff home early during the working day or closes the service, they would normally still have to pay the employees. An exception to this is if the employer has an unpaid lay off clause in the employees’ contracts and in this case employees would only be entitled to be paid for the hours actually worked.
Do I have to pay an employee if they are unable to attend work (can’t get to work)
Even though the employee’s absence is not of their own doing, an employer has no obligation to pay an employee if they are unable to attend for work due to severe weather conditions. Where an employee has the capacity to carry out their work from home for the duration of the disruption, this should be agreed but this would be unusual in the early years sector and may only apply to admin staff or the time could be used for non-contact work. Whilst there is no obligation, employers may wish to recognise the particular situation that arose this week and offer to let the employee make up the time on another day so they still get paid. Alternatively, the options of annual leave or unpaid leave should be presented to the employee. Notwithstanding the above some services may already have this covered off already in their policies.
Can I ask employees to take the time off as annual leave if they are unable to attend due to severe weather conditions?
Employers can request employees take annual leave at times when it suits the business but only if certain advance notice requirements are met. To enforce a holiday, employers must give notice that is equal to twice the length of time that the employer wants to be taken off by the employee e.g. 2 days’ notice must be given for 1 day’s holiday; 6 days’ notice must be given for 3 days’ holiday. Typically, the nature of bad weather means that complying with such notice requirements may not be possible. However, if the employee agrees to the employer’s suggestion to take an annual leave day, regardless of notice provided, then there is no issue with this.
Do I need to pay an employee who needs to take time off to take care of children who are off school?
Where the employer’s business remains open and employees are unable to attend because they need to take care of children who are off school, then, strictly speaking and subject to any custom and practice in operation within the company, there is no obligation on employers to pay employees during this period.
For future reference
Your service should prepare for the future and all of this should ideally be clarified beforehand in contracts and policies .It is important that employees are aware of how these matters are dealt with and to ensure that there are no surprises along the way. These situations do not happen very often but preparation is the key.