By Jennie Jahina
MANY column inches have been devoted to the extreme weather we have experienced so far this year. On top of this we're now pre-warned of a return of the Beast from the East in forthcoming months. Employers will undoubtedly read into this the significant risk for disruptions to employees travel to work plans over the winter months. How should employers manage absences or lateness due to adverse weather conditions?
The health and safety of staff is fundamental; imposing on staff an obligation (perceived or actual) to get to work regardless of the circumstances flies in the face of this obligation. An adverse weather policy which clarifies an employee's obligations in the circumstances can be a useful tool which provides guidance on both sides.
The policy should detail contingency plans such as home working, lift sharing or working from alternative offices. Crucially, the policy should also cover what happens when contingencies fail and someone cannot work. Does the employee have the right to be paid at these times? The position taken on not paying as set out in the policy will need to tie in with the employee's terms and conditions of employment - this is regardless of whether they are express or implied. Alternatives may include allowing employees to take the time as annual leave, make up missed hours or take unpaid leave. In cases where employees stay at home to look after children affected by school closures, the statutory right to reasonable time off without pay will apply.
Last, but by no means least, the policy should link to the disciplinary procedure to enable employers to deal with any absences not genuinely related to adverse weather conditions.
For more information, call Wilson Browne Solicitors on 0800 088 6004.