Whether its heavy snowfall, severe floodings and/or gale force winds, it is that time of year when the weather can cause chaos. Hence a clear policy for such circumstances can ensure that the staff know exactly what is expected of them and help minimise the disruption to your business.
Business Continuity Policy
Such a policy may set out the arrangements in adverse weather conditions to ensure so far as possible the continuity of the business. It could include provisions on when the business may have to close and what happens in such circumstances. It can include provisions on notifying staff of alternatively arrangements such as working from home, working at an alternative place or alternative hours of work and it should also give guidance to staff as to the expectations as to their attendance and the consequences thereof.
Paying staff who cannot get to work
Ordinarily staff are obliged to attend for work unless they are sick, on holiday or on maternity leave etc. Therefore the onus or starting point is that a member of staff should get to work, even in extreme weather conditions. Hence if the office is open and a member of staff is “snowed in”, the employer can treat the absence as unauthorised and refuse to pay for this time. However this approach is not necessarily good for staff morale and harmony and staff should not be pressured into risking their safety. If someone genuinely cannot make it in to work due to the weather then your business should consider the following amongst other things:-
(i) Paying the employee but insisting that the time is made up at a later date;
(ii) Agreeing that the employee can take the time off as part of paid annual leave; or
(iii)Agreeing a limited number of days per year, e.g. 3 maximum, when the employee will be paid in full for failing to attend to work due to emergencies including adverse weather (provided of course that you are satisfied that the employee either made a genuine effort to attend or the weather was simply too bad to risk travelling).
You will need to be careful in considering what to do here, as a policy that involves paying everyone may aggrieve those members of staff who did make the effort and got to work.
If a school is closed due to the weather , then if this happened with little or no notice and alternative childcare arrangements cannot be made then this could in effect constitute an emergency giving employees a statutory right to a limited period of time off (albeit unpaid). A clear policy for such matters is likely to avoid unfairness and disagreement in the workplace.
If you believe that an employee could have made it to work but has chosen not to then this could be a matter for a disciplinary procedure and possible disciplinary sanction. If there are genuine grounds for the employee failing to come into work then it may be helpful that
once the initial weather conditions have subsided sufficiently that you let all staff know by telephone, email etc that it is safe for them to return to work in order to reduce the risk of disciplinary concerns as this will usually prompt staff in to returning to the office.
If you need advice either as an employer or as an employee in respect of winter weather, travel disruption and attendance at work then please contact our head of employment law Daven Naghen on 01775 722261 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our offices or arrange an appointment at our offices at 23 New Road, Spalding, Lincolnshire, PE11 1DH.