Bad Weather Disruption
With winter coming, we can expect to have some disruption to our ability to get to work. We have set out below some the common questions employers have when snow stops play:
Many employees may ask to take holiday to cover any absence due to bad weather rather than losing a day’s pay. This is, therefore, an option.
In theory, there is nothing to stop an employer asking their employees to take holiday to cover any absence due to bad weather but if you do, you must make sure you give them the right notice and of course it may cause some employee relations issues.
In the circumstances where you have made the decision to keep your business closed, you have to pay your employees their normal wage unless the employees agree to be temporarily laid off without pay – this is highly unlikely!
If employees are working from home, then you should pay them their normal salary.
All employees have the legal right to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to care for dependents. This will cover the situation where for example a school is closed due to bad weather.
What is “reasonable” will very much depend on the circumstances of the employee and there is no timescale set out in the law as to how much time an employee can have off to care for their dependents.
Remember however this is emergency time off and your employee must inform you as soon as possible that they need to care for their dependents and how long they anticipate they will be off work.
Any such time off does not need to be paid but you may wish to consider whether to pay full pay in any event to foster good relations.
It is possible in this day and age of flexible working arrangements for you to say to your employees that they are not expected to attend the office but you do expect them to carry out as much of their work as possible from home.
In reality, many employees will even suggest this without you having to ask them to work.
Obviously, there are some jobs which simply cannot be performed at home but, if it is possible, then this certainly should be an option to consider in the case of bad weather disruption. Be wary however of trying to force an employee to work from home if there is no right in the contract for you to do this.
Under a contract of employment, if an employee is not working and they are not fulfilling their contractual obligations then in theory, you do not have to pay them. Employees are therefore not automatically entitled to be paid if they are unable to get to work because of bad weather.
However, from an employee relations perspective, this is likely to be viewed extremely negatively and business owners often have to make a distinction between what the law allows them to do and what is actually the “right thing” to do.
You are likely to be viewed as being a very harsh employer if you decide not to pay employees when, for reasons beyond their control, they are unable to get to work. You may also run the risk of grievances being raised if someone feels they have suffered an unlawful deduction from their wages or they have been discriminated against.
In this scenario, as the employer, you would have to pay them for any working time that they have missed as they were ready and willing to work but the transport was not available to take them to their place of work.
You may wish to consider whether staff will be allowed to wear warm clothing, whether you can bring in extra heating and you will also need to pay attention to vulnerable workers such as those with an underlying health issue or pregnant employees.
If the temperature is so low that working conditions are dangerous, you should send your employees home and you will have to pay them their full pay.
When bad weather interrupts business, this can cause some logistical headaches for employers. You should consider putting in place an Adverse Weather Policy and how you can keep in touch with your employees should severe weather stop them being able to come to work. You may also wish to consider whether or not you want to make any reference to adverse weather disruption in your contracts of employment.
You should remind employees in advance of the importance of following the absence reporting procedures, to urge employees to take great care if they do choose to come into work but also to remind them that they are expected to make some effort to try and come into their workplace. You may want to warn them that disciplinary action may follow if it transpires that employees have not at least tried to get into work.
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