If an employer closes its business because disrupted public transport prevents employees from attending work does it have to pay its employees?
An employer may choose to close its business if disruption to public transport means that a significant number of its staff, or a few key individuals, cannot get into work. Depending on the nature of the work, some employees may be able to work from home, in which case the employer must pay them their normal wages.
If employees are not able to work due to the employer's decision to close the business temporarily, this will in effect be a period of lay-off. The employer should pay the employees their normal wages during this period, unless there is a contractual provision allowing for unpaid lay-off, or the employees agree to being laid off without pay. In the absence of the employees' consent, or a contractual right to lay them off without pay, a failure to pay them would amount to a breach of contract on the employer's part. Employees may also claim that the employer has made an unauthorised deduction from their wages.
Even where there is contractual provision for a period of lay-off without pay, the employees may be entitled to a statutory guarantee payment, up to a maximum of £29 for any day when work is not available.
To be eligible for a guarantee payment, an employee must have at least one month's continuous employment ending on the day before the day the business is closed. They must remain on standby to be available for work if the employer reasonably requests this. There is no obligation on an employer to pay an employee who unreasonably refuses an offer of suitable alternative employment for a day when the business is closed.