Workers at home due to bad weather conditions: entitled to wages?
09 March 2021
Recently, the snow brought not only lots of ice skating fun, but also persistent slipperiness across the country. As a result of the snow or stormy weather, it can be difficult to travel to work by car or public transportation. Could the bad weather conditions be a reason for employees to stay home? What does a KNMI ´code red´ mean for employers?
Employee responsible for commuting to work
The law does not explicitly regulate what the rights and obligations of employees are when bad weather prevents travel to work. In principle, commuting is the responsibility of the employee. The employee must take measures for this. This includes leaving home earlier or driving to work with a colleague.
The employer is not automatically responsible if the employee cannot come to work due to weather conditions. If the employee decides to stay home without permission, there is, in principle, no entitlement to continued payment of wages. In this case, the employer can ask the employee to take a day off. Another solution may be for the employee to work from home.
Working from home is not possible
For employees in healthcare or education, working from home is more difficult to achieve. The best solution is to consult with the employee or employer. The employer must take measures to help the employee. This includes changing the schedule or giving the employee other tasks that can be performed (from home). In this case, an employer may not simply oblige the employee to take a day off.
Working (from home) is impossible: 'unworkable weather'
Different rules apply to employees who perform their work in the open air, such as construction workers or road workers. In that case, not performing the work is at the employer's risk. Agreements on whether or not to work in bad weather conditions are included in the relevant collective employment agreement. In some cases, the collective employment agreement stipulates that the employee is entitled to unemployment benefit in the event of 'unworkable weather'.
Code red (weather alarm)
What applies in the event of a KNMI ´code red?´ In this case, the government issues the urgent advice to stay at home. The employer may not ask the employee to come to work if this is not possible in a safe manner. As a result, the employee is entitled to continued payment of wages despite the fact that the work cannot be done. This may be different under certain circumstances. For example, an employee who lives close to work might be required to come to work despite code red.
In any case, the employer is expected to take measures based on good employment practices. After all, the employer has a duty of care towards its staff. For example, the company may close earlier (if possible) or the employees may be asked to stay at home.
Ultimately, it comes down to good consultation between employer and employee, in order to properly make agreements depending on the actual situation. Such as, agreeing upon (if possible) other suitable work that can be done from home or catching up with work on another day.