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Is my employee entitled to pay when they are prevented from working due to outside circumstances?

Background

This week we read of the shattering news that a Nursery in Hampshire had been destroyed by Fire. The Community has rallied and amazingly the Nursery will reopen in temporary premises very shortly. This situation sadly isn’t that uncommon. We have had nurseries destroyed by arsonists and flood waters in the last 15 years that we have operated as HR Consultants in this sector. 

The Legal position

If an employee is normally required to work on a particular day and is prevented from working by circumstances outside their control, in most circumstances, the employer must still pay them for the hours agreed.

Where an employee are on zero hours contracts the employer will not have to pay for the hours they don’t work as they didn’t have work for them to do. 

But if the employee is on a permanent full or part time contract they will expect to be paid unless the employer has included a Short Time and Lay Off clause in their signed contract of employment. 

In these circumstances, the employee must be paid a guarantee payment of up to £29 per day.

This is payable for a maximum of five days in any three-month period.

This guarantee payment is payable provided that the employee has been employed for a month or more under a contract of employment.

Lay Off or Short Time

Lay Off (not to be confused with redundancy) isn’t something an employer does easily or readily. It is often an action of last resort. Employers will negotiate with employees in most cases and agree perhaps to go home now and make up the time when we have something useful for you to do or ask staff to ‘muck in’ and assist in what ever capacity they can in order to salvage the business. 

Short Time working means someone works a.m. rather than a.m. and p.m. or 3 days not 5. Again these are commonly used when work has reduced not disappeared. Employees are unlikely to get assistance from the state if on short time. 

What happens when its not the employer’s premises that are the issue?

In terms of action taken by 3rd parties we have seen protests in recent weeks and such actions by 3rd parties can make it difficult for an employee to attend work for no fault of their own. Again it would be normal to explain to the employee that there is work for them to do and therefore non attendance is unpaid.  A common issue arises in Winter where inclement weather makes it difficult and challenging for an employee to attend work, again not the employer’s responsibility and therefore no payment due. However if they employer closes the place of work then they should pay staff scheduled to work those hours as normal.

It can be hard to face paying wages when your income depends on staff being able to provide services (i.e. a Day Nursery, Club etc) but you should always seek professional HR advice before withholding pay from employees.

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If you need any assistance with your clauses in your contracts of employment please let us know.