Can you make staff take snow days as holiday?

By: Annabel Kaye

Date: 10 February 2010

There have been a lot of misleading headlines about holiday and absence. Here are some useful facts.

As the freeze continues, many employers have been asking snow-bound staff to take a day’s holiday if they don’t show up for work. But as well as battling with staff absence and the awful weather, bosses have been surrounded by a blizzard of headlines about holiday and absence, many of which are misleading.

Use this checklist to deal with any problems fairly and in line with the law:

  1. An employer cannot make someone go to work. 
  2. Employees have no general legal entitlement to be paid for days not worked. Many contracts/staff handbooks specifically say employees won’t be paid for absence except under their sickness, holiday or parental leave schemes. 
  3. Employers who keep the workplace open may ask absent employees to chose to take holiday if they want to be paid (as opposed to unpaid leave). 
  4. Employers can specify in advance that annual leave must be taken on days they chose. To do this they must specify dates in advance and give relevant notice “twice as many days in advance (of the first day of leave) as the number of days to be taken”. So even one day’s leave requires two full days’ notice. This does not usually cover shutdowns needed at short notice. 
  5. Some employers have their own rules for specifying leave dates that may override the basic rules above. 
  6. Parents taking time off to look after their children have no general right to be paid. 
  7. Some employers offer staff the chance of working additional hours to catch up on a backlog and to help employees catch up on pay. 
  8. Many employers are paying people who attended work on the basis of a full day even if they arrived late or went early (though not all are obliged to do so). 
  9. The legal maximum for a working week - 48 hours - is set as an average, not an absolute ceiling, so workers can work longer hours occasionally to get things back to normal.   

Annabel Kaye of Irenicon Ltd.

Law Donut

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