Snow day: Why many of us can't call in 'winter' to work

When buses are cancelled and businesses decide to shut their doors due to winter weather, are they obligated to pay you for a missed shift? Employment lawyer Brian Gottheil says no, but companies may want to anyway.

If you don't work, you don't get paid, lawyer Brian Gottheil says

When your workplace is closed due to weather, your employer doesn't have to pay you, says employment lawyer Brian Gottheil. (CBC)

When the weather outside is frightful, can you call in "winter" to work?

Or if your employer closes down for the day because of weather, do they still have to pay you?

The quick answer, from Mississauga employment lawyer and human resources adviser Brian Gottheil, is no.

"The default rule is, if you're working you're getting paid, if you're not working you're not getting paid, even if that's the employer's decision," he said.
Brian Gottheil is a Mississauga-based employment lawyer and human resources adviser. (Supplied photo)

"That's the law unless you've changed the law with contracts or a collective agreement or something else."

There are some situations where that's not the case, though. Gottheil says cancelled shifts may be covered under an employee contract, union's collective agreement or a company policy.

There had been plans to change that law under the previous provincial government. If it had become law, Bill 148 would have given workers three hours pay if their shift had been cancelled at the last minute. The Progressive Conservatives quashed the bill when they came into power last spring.

Gottheil suggested employees could use a vacation day if they needed to be home, but said people shouldn't call in sick.

'Is it really safe for your people'

As a human resources adviser, Gottheil says he recommends employers really consider what their employees are going through to get to work on bad weather days.

"I would still want to think about, is it really safe for your people to be coming into work and what would happen if there were to be an injury or an accident," he said.

While employers wouldn't be liable if someone was injured on their commute to work, he said, "it obviously has a big, negative impact on that person who's been injured but is also has an impact on the company because you're losing a good person while they're recovering and it has an impact on everybody else who has to do the work that person's not able to do."

With files from CBC K-W's Jackie Sharkey

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