Ex-hurricane Ophelia - answers to your working arrangements questions

There has been a significant number of calls received from SFA members regarding ex-hurricane Ophelia and the impact this has had on working arrangements. We have answered the most commonly received queries from members below.

Do I have to pay an employee if they are unable to attend work due to severe weather conditions?

Even though the employee’s absence is through no fault of their own, 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 with his or her line manager. This will not be feasible for a number of roles where the employee’s presence is required. Whilst there is no obligation, employers may wish to be accommodating in this circumstance 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.

If I close my business 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 business, 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.

Can I make employees take the time off as annual leave if they are unable to attend due to severe weather conditions?

Employers can make 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.

Is an employee entitled to be paid when they are unable to attend work because they need 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.


The company’s approach should ideally be clarified beforehand in a company policy or, in the absence of a policy, discussed and agreed with employees at the time the situation arises. It is important that employees are aware of how these matters are dealt with in the company to ensure that there are no surprises on pay day which may lead to a disgruntled workforce.

The SFA have a guideline on severe and inclement weather conditions which can be viewed here. For further advice, contact Ciara McGuone, SFA Executive on 01 605 1668 or ciara.mcguone@sfa.ie.

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