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Managing Disruption Due to Bad Weather

Despite the best efforts of those responsible for tending to our roads some employees are unable to attend work due to the adverse weather conditions.  These unexpected absences cause difficulties and all interested parties generally grab for the employee handbook!

It is advisable to consider how best to ensure business continuity and issues such as how employees should keep in touch; whether to pay staff who are absent due to bad weather or who have to stay at home to care for children due to school closure; whether employees can work at home or from an alternative location. Having some form of policy is a tremendously useful starting point.

In the absence of contractual terms requiring payment (express, implied by policy or custom and practice) there is no general rule requiring an employer to make payment in circumstances where the employer is able to offer the employee work but the employee is unable to work due to his or her inability to get to work.

Clearly employees stranded on business trips are in a far stronger position and consideration should be given to paying wages/salary and expenses.

Although there is no inherent right to receive payment employers should consider the HR implications of this.  Valued staff who are genuinely unable to attend work despite their best efforts may take a dim view of not being paid and this could harm morale. Not making payment may encourage the abuse of sick leave and paying those who have not made an effort while colleagues have struggled to get in causes resentment. A pragmatic approach is encouraged.

Increasingly employers are permitting employees to work from home, to work at a more convenient location if possible; to work flexibly and make up the hours lost at a later date or take paid annual leave.

In the event a decision is made not to pay, then the policy should make this clear and it should be applied consistently.

In the event employees are unable to attend work due to school closures or difficulties with their childcare arrangements then in emergency situations an employee is entitled to take unpaid time off to look after dependants. The statutory right is to as much unpaid time off as is reasonable to make alternative arrangements for childcare.

Therefore the right to time off may vary according to individual’s circumstances. Care must be taken to ensure that staff who qualify for dependant leave do not suffer any detriment as a result of relying on this right.

We have prepared a basic policy to facilitate consideration and it may be found here.

For further information please contact JP van Zyl on 0843 224 7925.

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