The Beast from the East and the Journey to Work

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The Beast from the East and the Journey to Work

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Ashtons HR Consulting look at how to deal with employee absences due to adverse weather.

“We have spare toothbrushes and sleeping bags” I was told a few years ago when working in the newspaper industry – key personnel were expected to come into work during adverse weather and to stay overnight to get the morning newspaper out. Your business may not have such stringent requirements for your staff, but what should you do as an employer when your employees can’t get into work?

Make clear to your employees as soon as possible what your policy will be for any weather-related absences and apply this consistently.

Remember you are responsible for the health and safety of your employees. Consider whether you really do need people to make the journey to work during extreme weather. Can you offer remote working as an alternative? Conference calls instead of face-to-face meetings?

If employees do make it to work but are late due to the weather, consider allowing them to make the time up at a later date.

Make clear whether you will allow employees to take a day’s annual leave to cover their absence or treat it as unpaid absence. Best to do this through mutual agreement as, if you tell employees they have to take annual leave, you are legally required to give twice as much notice as the time you are instructing them to take. So, for example, if you tell them to take one day off, you should give them two days’ notice of this – clearly impractical in the case of adverse weather.

If you have to close the workplace due to the weather and you instruct employees not to come in e.g. because of a heating failure in your premises, it would normally be unlawful to deduct pay in these circumstances.

If employees need to stay at home to look after children because the schools are closed, this would come under the statutory Right to Time off for Dependents. Employees cannot be penalised for taking such leave unless it is excessive, but the legal right is to unpaid time off, unless you have a policy allowing payment in such circumstances.

You are also responsible for the health and safety of employees while at work so aim to minimise hazards in the workplace such as icy car parks or paths.

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