Unusual Absence Policy

Linda Hynes, employment law associate with Ogier Leman writes a quarterly feature for Legal-Island email subscribers providing handy precedents and checklists for subscribers to download and use. This month’s topic focuses on situations where an employee cannot attend the workplace due to unusual circumstances such as extreme weather, transport strikes and civil unrest. This issue came into focus when ESB workers threatened strike action in December over the company’s pension scheme. This could have resulted in nationwide blackouts affecting many businesses.

This issue also raises questions whenever there is heavy snowfall and flooding and these adverse weather conditions are unfortunately becoming more common every year. With this in mind Linda has prepared a template policy on how organisations can handle unusual absence situations. The most important action for an employer to take is deciding what policy will apply in an unusual absence situation. The second important step is clearly communicating this decision to employees through an appropriate policy. The template Linda has prepared also sets out the relevant reporting procedure and when an absence will be considered unauthorised. This can be critical in deciding if disciplinary action is necessary if it is felt that someone has taken advantage of a situation.

Where the workplace is open and the employee does not attend, is late or leaves early, then the general rule is that the employer is not obliged to pay the employee. This will of course be guided by custom and practice within an organisation and consultation may be required to change the previous practice. If the employer decides to close the business then they will generally be required to compensate employees as normal although employees may agree to work back the time, take time in lieu, annual leave or unpaid leave if the options are discussed and communicated in advance.

Each situation will be different and common sense will need to be used where there are clear health and safety risks to certain employees. The possibility of some employees working from home should also be considered and planned for in accordance with the organisation’s business continuity planning. As with all employment matters, early communication with employees is key and likely to lead to less disputes in the long run. Linda’s template should be reviewed and amended appropriately to fit your organisation’s requirements.

Click here to access the Unusual Absence Policy Template.


This publication is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. No liability is accepted by Ogier Leman for any action taken or not taken in reliance on the information set out in this publication. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. Any and all information is subject to change.

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