Is severe weather affecting your business?

6
Dec

Following the recent floods and the arrival of the first snow of the season companies may be looking at how to manage disruptions at work due to adverse weather.  Severe weather affects us all in different ways; some employees may be unable to get into the workplace because of flooding, school closures, treacherous roads or disruptions to public transport.

So how can you ensure you are fair in your handling of time off during severe weather, avoid grievances or claims of discrimination and lawfully reduce wages as a result of absence?

How to manage the impact of severe weather fairly:

  • Introduce a severe weather policy.
  • Ensure your managers and staff are aware of the policy and managers have guidance on applying the policy consistently to avoid potential discrimination claims.
  • Consider alternative ways of working
  • Is it possible for employees to log onto your network from home?
  • Can you supply a laptop for home use if weather forecasts look doubtful?
  • Have you considered flexitime so the hours are already banked or can be made up at a later date?
  • Unauthorised absence due to severe weather should be handled with a degree of sensitivity, stopping pay when someone turns up late because of public transport delays is not likely to help your employee feel motivated when they finally arrive.
  • If you do wish to reduce pay due to severe weather this should be mentioned in a contract of employment to ensure it is a lawful deduction of wages.
  • Stopping pay when someone is late for work because of severe weather is not good for employee relations and can create an administrative burden on payroll.
  • Stopping pay if someone is unable to arrive for work due to circumstances beyond their control would be considered acceptable, and should be written into your policy and contract of employment.
  • It is good practice to investigate issues of persistent lateness or unauthorised absence, and if relevant use your absence management policy to improve performance. You will know if someone is taking advantage of the situation if other employees from the same area or with the same journey are turning up for work on time.
  • If schools are closed due to the weather the employee is entitled to take unpaid leave under the legal right to time off to care for dependents – employees are allowed ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependent, providing them with an opportunity to arrange for alternative care. There’s no set amount, but in most cases 1 or 2 days should be enough.

Remember your duty of care under Health & Safety regulations.

  • Anyone driving on company business should not be forced to drive in severe weather so may be unable to carry out their day to day work.
  • Anyone working outdoors may also be unable to do their job.
  • Carrying out risk assessments, providing suitable clothing for working outdoors and giving adequate rest periods will all help to reduce the impact of severe weather.
  • If weather conditions worsen it may help your staff to allow them to leave work early.

In all cases it is important to remain flexible, to ensure employees are aware of your expectations in terms of reporting lateness or absences from work, and to be consistent in your approach.

 

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