Snow advice for employees

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 08:46 19/06/2013
Traffic in Christchurch snow
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ

SNOWED UNDER: Some Cantabrians still managed to get to work when heavy snow blanketed the region on June 6 last year.

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The rules about paying employees who do not make it to work during a snow day are not black and white, a Christchurch employment lawyer says.

Duncan Cotterill employment lawyer Sarah Townsend said there was no ''one size fits all'' solution to whether an employee could be forced to use their annual leave entitlement if they did not come into work after a heavy snowfall.

However, employers should be aware of their obligations and the terms of their employment agreements.

''Generally speaking, there is an obligation on employers to pay employees who are ready, willing and able to work, but are unable to work because the workplace is closed or otherwise off limits,'' she said.

''The situation is different where businesses are open and operating but employees either choose not to come into work, or cannot come in due to childcare requirements or concern over road conditions.''

In those circumstances, it would be fair for employers to ask staff to take annual leave if they could not come into work but still wanted to be paid, she said.

If the employee did not want to use their annual leave then the day away from work would be unpaid.

Townsend said the situation was not black and white though and each case needed to be considered on its own merits.

Employers needed to consider whether an employee could have come to work, but chose not to, or whether the employee could not have made it to work safely.

Townsend said there were several things employers should do to mitigate any possible disruption to their business before the bad weather arrived.

''A key part is to communicate with staff about any plans that have been put in place to deal with a heavy snowfall and what the employer's expectations of staff are likely to be.''

Alternative work arrangements, such as working from home, should be considered where appropriate, she said.

Employers should also make sure they have up-to-date contact information for their staff so they could communicate with them on the day and provide updates about their work situation.

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