Employment and extreme circumstances

Jan 1, 2020

Finally the snow has arrived. Apart from offering some welcome distraction from Covid-19, it may pose some challenges to businesses and their employees. Getting snowed in is not a problem for many people, as they were already chained to their home office desks and not allowed much room to maneuver anyway. But not everybody can work from home and some people actually need to show up somewhere each morning. What happens if an employee physically cannot show up at work, because the trains and buses aren’t running and the roads are too dangerous? 

Employee cannot work due to extreme circumstances. Who’s responsible?

In a normal employee-employer relationship, extreme circumstances (such as weather conditions) fall under the employer's 'normal business risk'. If the work cannot be carried out due to heavy snowfall or frost, this risk is carried by the employer. This also means wage payments must continue. Under circumstances, the employer and employee can agree in advance that contractual leave days will be used when work is halted due to extreme circumstances. This must be agreed upon expressly in writing, and statutory holidays (“wettelijke vakantiedagen”) may not be used to this end. If you want to read more about the different types of holidays in the Netherlands, look here. Certain sectors that are especially influenced by weather circumstances may have specific rules apply in their CAO (“Collective Labour Agreement”). For example, people working in construction may not be called up to work when the temperature drops to a certain value. During this time, the employer must continue wage payments. Be mindful that some CAOs apply with automatic effect, regardless whether the employment contract mentions one.

What constitutes extreme circumstances?

If the work requires an employee to be at the office, the ground rule is they must show up unless there are extreme circumstances. As always, what that is depends on the situation. If the employee doesn’t feel comfortable crossing the streets and the weathermen “implore” us to stay inside, that’s typically not enough to remain at home. Also, a broken car or battery or lack of winter tires is considered the employee’s responsibility. If an employee wants to stay at home in those cases, they must spend a holiday for it. The employer doesn’t have to continue wage payments if the employee refuses to do this.

This may change when the employee is dependent on public transport and the lines are out of service, or roads are actually closed off by the authorities. When the situation is outside of control or responsibility of the employee, the employee may remain at home due to extreme circumstances. When that happens, the employer has an obligation to continue wage payments and cannot force them to take a holiday.

Always try to work out an amicable solution. If this is impossible, you can always contact us and see what we can do.

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