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Weather Warning!

Napthens - January 14th 2015

With winter well and truly underway most parts of the UK are currently under a severe weather warning due to snow and gales.

Every year adverse weather conditions create issues for employees getting into work and employers seeking to manage employee absenteeism caused by storms and snow. It is advisable for employers to have in place an Adverse Weather and Travel Disruption Policy setting out what should happen if employees cannot make it into work because of extreme weather, public transport strikes, or similar reasons.

Whether or not employers must pay employees who cannot get to work is one of the most frequently asked questions. The answer depends on a combination of rights: the right not to suffer unlawful deductions from wages, and the employee's express and implied contractual rights.

Practical Points

In terms of dealing with employee absenteeism caused by adverse weather, employers should consider the following:

  • Given the potential for legal uncertainty, consider including a clause in employment contracts to specifically authorise deductions from wages if this is the approach your business wishes to take
  • Plan ahead - implement a policy setting out how your business will deal with adverse weather and other major travel disruptions (HR3 clients can obtain a suggested policy via the HR3 iToolkit)Ensure that any abuse/breach of policy is dealt with in accordance your disciplinary procedure
  • Publicise the policy internally before any likely period of travel disruption
  • Maintain communication – advise employees to keep the business updated of their current situation
  • Be flexible - consider allowing employees to work from home (if possible), or from an alternative workplace (if available)
  • Decide whether employees will be paid if they cannot make it to work, and ensure any guidance is applied consistently
  • If the workplace cannot be run safely, consider closing it and sending employees home
  • Be aware that employees who cannot organise alternative childcare arrangements would be entitled to statutory protection for taking the day off. Time off to care for dependents and emergency leave is unpaid but not all employers take this approach, instead choosing to exercise discretion and pay the employee

HR3 clients can visit our iToolkit for a suggested Adverse Weather and Travel Disruption Policy.