Whether or not we believe it will happen, heavy snow is forecast across the UK in the next month. Having a policy on what happens to normal working operations in the event of severe weather conditions is advisable so that employees know where they stand on these occasions. The consequences of severe weather conditions can have an effect on employee’s pay, dependent on your contractual position, so it is best that your rules are laid out clearly and can prevent confusion when the need arises.
Common workplace problems
The following are some of the most common problems caused in the workplace by adverse weather conditions:
- you cannot open the workplace
- you can open but cannot operate as normal because, for example, normal deliveries cannot be made
- your employees cannot get to work because the weather conditions mean they cannot leave their house e.g. they are snowed in
- your employees can get to the workplace but cannot perform normal duties because of the conditions e.g. drivers
- your employees cannot get to work because their normal transport method is affected
- your employees’ normal childcare arrangements break down because the school/nursery is not open, or is closed early.
General duty to ensure employee welfare
You have a general duty under health and safety legislation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of your employees. You should not encourage your employees to travel in dangerous weather conditions, although you can expect all reasonable efforts be made by the employee to get to work. The duty to ensure employee welfare also includes providing employees with the necessary clothing and equipment to carry out their role in adverse weather and your general risk assessment should be referred to in order to re-appraise the risks involved in employees carrying out their work.
Your normal notification procedures will apply to absence or lateness caused by adverse weather.
Payment to employees who cannot get to work
If the workplace remains open but employees are absent from work because of the conditions or because their normal transport method is unavailable, then the employee is on unauthorised absence – even if they have notified you of their absence – and should be managed as such. This is likely to mean that the employee will not be paid for any days of absence, or for any time missed because of lateness.
Although deducting pay would normally be the default position, you may decide to exercise discretion due to the exceptional nature of the absence and maintain full pay. If you do this, you should apply your discretion consistently on each occasion in order to avoid any grievances on the grounds of unfair treatment and the risk of discrimination claims.
Alternative arrangements for employees who cannot get to the workplace
You may be able to agree alternative arrangements with an employee who is unable to get to work because of adverse weather which would guard against loss of pay e.g. agreeing that the employee work from home (subject to the employee having the necessary equipment to do so effectively).
Payment to employees when the workplace is closed
If the employer is unable to open the workplace because of adverse weather, the situation is different because no work is being provided. In these circumstances, normal pay would be due. However, the existence of a lay-off clause in employees’ documentation would alter this. If an employer is temporarily unable to provide any work to its employees and has a lay-off clause providing for no pay during lay-off, employees may be placed on lay-off until the workplace can open again. Employees with one month’s service would be entitled to statutory guarantee pay (SGP) for each workless day subject to the maximum duration.
The same would apply where the workplace was open but could not operate as normal due to no deliveries being able to reach the workplace etc. In this case, you may be able to find other work for the employee to do which is different from their normal tasks.
Employees with young children
Even though their own journey to work may not be affected, some employees may find themselves in the position where their child’s normal care arrangements are not available – because the school or nursery is closed – and therefore need time off to look after their child. Where normal childcare arrangements break down, employees are entitled to take time off for dependants and it is likely that one or two days may be needed to cover the period of bad weather. Time off for dependants is unpaid.
If you need help managing your employees when adverse weather has affected work, or need help creating a adverse weather policy, contact our CIPD accredited HR Consultants at Aspire Cambridge.
Headquartered in Cambridge with regional presence in Kettering and Milton Keynes, Aspire Cambridge provide cost effective Recruitment and HR solutions to an impressive portfolio of customers spanning the UK and Europe. Working with a diverse collection of industries from start-ups to blue chip companies covering a vast range of sectors. Aspire Cambridge has an unrivalled knowledge of the jobs marketplace so it’s no wonder that they hold an impressive track record of exceeding client and candidate expectations.
How do they do it? By “Placing People First”.
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