As the winter cold spell seems to finally be setting in and the first signs of snow have started to appear, some employers may be fearing the adverse effects that the weather conditions may have on their business both in terms of trading and employee attendance, particularly those who were also affected by the recent flooding.
As an employer, you should consider the following points:
One of the main questions will be whether an employee is entitled to be paid if he or she can’t make it into work as a result of the snow (alternatively, you can insert any of flood, ash cloud, tornado etc). The law states that ann employee is not entitled to be paid during this time unless there is an express right to the cash within the employee’s contract, in the employment handbook or it can be deemed to imply as a result of the employer’s practice.
If the employee is due pay, refusing to pay may result in the employer being found liable an Employment Tribunal claim for unlawfully deducting the employee’s wages. To maintain staff morale, an alternative might be for an employer to instead offer meet its employees somewhere in the middle by paying but also requiring them to make back the time (perhaps under a flexi-time arrangement), by agreeing that the employee can take the time as holidays or even agreeing a split between these options.
It is important to ensure that a consistent approach is adopted. You should ensure that the position is clearly set out in your company's policies and procedures. You can introduce a specific bad weather policy to cover these situations. The consequences of being overly generous to employees living out of town should also be considered in light of town/city based employees who may feel aggrieved if their colleagues keep effectively getting ‘free holidays’ as a result of the bad weather whilst they still have to battle to get into the office each time.
Depending on the employee's role, it may be appropriate to facilitate remote working or working from home. If this is an option, staff should be trained in how to log on before it becomes necessary to do so. Appropriate training and guidance should also be given and clear policies put in place to guard against security risks from using unsecured wireless connections at home, both in virus prevention and protecting sensitive company information. You also need to consider any health and safety risks and obligations in relation to home-working if it's likely to be used on a regular basis, particularly in relation to employee workstations.
Remind your employees of the absence reporting requirements which apply when they are unable to attend the office. This will hopefully allow effective communication to take place where a number of employees are off at once on short notice.
If employees call to inform you that they can't get into the office, it is important not to jump to any conclusions too quickly. Remember that weather conditions outside of the town/city centre may be significantly worse. You should also encourage employees to attend work where possible but don't force employers to attend work where it is obviously risky for them to do so, particularly where this involves driving. Remember that conditions may worsen over the course of the day.
However, if employees try to use the weather as an excuse not to attend work, they should be dealt with accordingly under disciplinary policies.
It should also be remembered that employees have a statutory right to take time off work to care for dependants. This will include children who need supervision where schools are closed due to bad weather. This right is designed to allow the employee time to put alternative arrangements into place and not to remain off work for the duration of the closure. The right will not ordinarily extend beyond one day.
In light of all that modern technology offers, there is no real reason why most businesses cannot continue to operate smoothly during spells of bad weather, provided they have the necessary procedures in place which have been effectively communicated and they adopt a consistent and fair approach.
If you do require a bad weather policy, or indeed any other employment policies, please do not hesitate to get in touch.