Inclement Weather and Employer Obligations in Ontario

inclement weather

Jan 24, 2017

Living in Ontario, you are no stranger to the unpredictable and extreme whims of weather. Whether it is a blizzard, an ice storm, flooded roads or all of the above, you see it at all. Inclement weather is typically bad news for any business, which may lose the ability to perform their business, lose customers or have to account for the safety of its employees.

When it comes to inclement weather, it is important for businesses to be aware of its employer obligations.

Inclement weather and employer obligations overview:

Employee Pay in Inclement Weather

If an employee cannot report to work due to the weather, an employer is not required to pay them, unless explicitly stated in the employee’s contract agreement. Some employers may allow employees to use a vacation day, if available, to still receive payment for that day, however that is up to the employer and not legally obligated.

If the employer does not require the employee to report to work and can reach them to cancel their shift, there is no requirement to pay the employee.

If the employee is required to report to work, but is sent home early due to inclement weather affecting business, there may be a minimum amount of hours that is required to be paid. However, the employer does not have to pay if the severe weather means there is no work for the employee to do. For example, if there is a power failure or a tree falls on the business or something beyond the control of the of the employer.

Requiring an Employee to Work

Some employers worry about being exposed to liability if they require an employee to come to work in inclement weather. Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act says that employers have a general obligation to take precautions which are reasonable to look out for the safety and protection of its worker. This obligation does not necessarily define if or when the business “must” close, however the obligation necessarily means that employers must take certain measures in cases of severe weather to provide necessary protection to its workers and meet its statutory obligations. This may include, depending on the circumstances; proper equipment and protection, more breaks than usual and a rotation of workers doing long or demanding work.

It is advisable to have a strong inclement weather policy to clearly outline the policies, procedures and guidelines of your business during inclement weather. An experienced labour and employment lawyer can help ensure that this document is legal, protects your business and accounts for the safety of your employees in accordance with your obligations as an employer. Contact the Labour and Employment team at Chown Cairns in St. Catharines to prepare yourself, your business and your employees for inclement weather.