Adverse Weather Policies
With the UK having faced some unpredictable weather conditions recently, from extreme heat to sudden snowfall and gale force winds, businesses are worried about the implications for their business whilst looking after the wellbeing of their staff.
Clearly, employers will be concerned about the welfare of their employees, but there is a potential impact upon the business’ bottom line too. Employers ask where they stand legally if an employee cannot get to the office – should a worker be paid for the day particularly if they live in remote or coastal areas and genuinely struggle to get to work in hostile weather conditions?
The key lies in having a policy in place to cover adverse conditions and making sure your staff know the policy and what is expected of them.
The policy should make it clear that:
- Employees are expected to make every effort to get to work. If they cannot, they should notify you of their absence prior to their scheduled start time
- Some roles will allow home working and it is often best practice to advise employees of this in anticipation of weather disruption so that they make take any documents or IT equipment home in advance
- How the absence will be managed and whether missed time will need to be worked back or will go unpaid. Some employers opt to include a policy provision that allows for payment if a genuine attempt to get to work has been made
- When other policy provisions may apply to an absence e.g. school or nursery closures that prevent attendance
- The ramifications if the policy is breached, or how an absence will be managed if there is no genuine reason for the absence
Should I withhold wages?
An employer may have a right to withhold wages if company policy is breached and there is a clear provision for the deduction in the contract of employment. However, case law indicates that if the non-performance of work is involuntary and unavoidable, the employee may be entitled to their wages. In practice even if an employer has the legal right to dock pay, most employers will look at the circumstances involved and make a reasonable judgement.
If staff are based in remote or coastal areas which are likely to bear the brunt of any expected extreme weather it may be sensible and reasonable to make allowances, particularly if an employee has made efforts to get in to work, or if they have offered to make alternative arrangements.
It is also prudent to consider employer/employee relations in addition to your legal stance an employer. Withholding wages in what may appear to be unreasonable circumstance is likely to dent staff morale or damage the reputation of your company. In the future, it may also result in the abuse of sick leave.
That said, taking a blanket approach to paying employees who don’t appear for work may lead to others swinging the lead in future. Therefore, when making a decision as to how to treat unavoidable absences due to weather and traffic disruption, you will need to consider:
- The details of your company policies to ensure consistency
- Communicating with staff in advance if possible how absences will be managed
- The individual circumstances of the employee
- Reviewing how you may have handled similar situations previously
For more information on this or how our outsourced HR Service could assist your business, request a quote here. Or contact one of our expert team members below.