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Adverse Weather

As the UK changes back to GMT each October the long dark nights are the first indication that the colder winter weather will soon be upon us and many will be travelling to work and going home in the dark and sometimes in poor weather conditions.

Being prepared and having in place an appropriate adverse weather policy provides a vital means for putting in place contingency plans and communicating to employees procedural expectations during periods of adverse weather. Below are some of the common queries raised when severe weather conditions impact on the workplace.

Is the employer required to pay employees who cannot get into work because of severe adverse weather conditions?

In principle employees are required to attend work to fulfil the terms of their employment contract, even in situations of severe adverse weather conditions. As such, an employer would be within their rights to refuse to pay any employee who does not attend work because of severe weather conditions.

However, employers should take appropriate careful consideration of all their contractual arrangements in place, and balance these against the relevant statutory regulations, such as, the right not to suffer unlawful deductions from wages and potential discriminative practices. 

Severe adverse weather conditions infrequently impact on an employees ability to attend work, which would tend to endorse employers adopting a more pragmatic and flexible approach to managing situations of severe weather conditions. The potential financial burden of paying staff in circumstances in which they are unable to attend work, because of severe weather conditions, may be compensated against when considering the positive impact this will have on the organisations reputation as well as employee engagement and morale.

If the employer closes the workplace because of severe weather conditions, do they have to pay their employees?

If an employee is unable to work because the employer has made the decision to close the workplace because of severe weather conditions, this will in effect be a period of temporary lay-off. As such, employees should be paid their normal wage unless there are contractual provisions in place allowing for periods of un-paid lay-off, or employees agree to being temporarily laid-off without pay.

What are the considerations for employees with childcare commitments?

There are occasions when a school or nursey may take the decision to close because of adverse weather conditions. Employees have a statutory right to take a reasonable period of unpaid time off from work to deal with an emergency situation regarding a dependant, for example, because alternative arrangements cannot be made at short notice following a school closure.

An employee that requires time to deal with an emergency involving a dependant must inform their employer, as soon as it is possible, of the reasons for the absence, and the length of the time required to deal with the situation. This period of time is intended to permit the employee the time required to make alternative arrangements and is not intended as a period of extended leave away from the workplace.

How can an employer minimise disruption?

Adopting a flexible approach during periods of adverse weather conditions, when employees are unable to get into work, can contribute toward increased employee engagement as well as providing alternative opportunities to enabling employees to continue to work. Whilst not necessarily practical in all workplaces some considerations may include;

·       Enabling some roles to work from home when unable to travel into work,

·       Organise group travel arrangements, promote car share opportunities,

·       Temporary flexi-time arrangements, allowing employees to make the time up at an agreed later date, or start late, finish early,

·       Authorising annual leave if appropriate. 

Implementing flexible working arrangements can be difficult and may not always be practical. In such circumstances employers should support their employees to plan ahead and provide clear guidance on what processes to follow if unable to attend work because of adverse weather conditions.

 Why have an Adverse Weather Policy?

A clear succinct policy provides employees unambiguous guidance and advice on what appropriate action they should take if they are unable to attend work because of adverse weather conditions or unexpected workplace closure. The policy should be reviewed annually and communicated across the network to all employees during the winter period and when adverse weather is forecast. A balanced approach of encouraging employee attendance at work during adverse weather conditions and not placing themselves at risk attempting to get into the workplace should always be taken. 

Should you have any questions or queries regarding adverse weather policy and procedures please do not hesitate to direct them to us via our contact page details.