30 November 2010 #Employment
In January 2010 up to 124 million working hours were reported to have been lost in a single week because of the adverse weather conditions at the time. With severe weather occurrences seemingly on the rise it may be time to dig out those adverse weather polices that you all have in place!
An adverse weather policy should set out clear guidance on what employees should do in the event of workplace closures, disruptions to public transport or needing to work from home. Maybe it is also time to review those flexible working polices...
A reminder of how to deal with the issues that commonly arise
Q: Can you deduct the pay of staff who can`t get to work?
A: Generally the answer to this will be no. Few contracts contain a clause allowing employers to dock pay if employees can`t get into work because of bad weather. Employees are protected from unauthorised deductions from wages - so if you deduct pay without consent, this will be subject to legal challenge. If working from home isn`t an option, you could require staff to use their annual leave entitlement for time taken off work due to poor weather if the employment contract contains a right for you to direct when holiday is taken by employees or workers. Ideally, this requirement should have been communicated to staff in advance and should be set out in your staff handbook.
Q: What about employees who need to look after children because of school closures?
A: Employees have a statutory right to unpaid time off work to deal with certain unexpected situations affecting their dependants. This right is likely to include school closures at short notice due to bad weather, where no alternative childcare arrangements are available. Some employers may still choose pay staff in these circumstances, but either way, a consistent and non-discriminatory approach should be taken (so don`t assume it will always be mothers who can take the time off, and allow fathers the same rights).
Q: What can you do about staff you suspect might be taking advantage of the situation?
A: You need to be clear why you suspect staff may be taking advantage. Consider the travel disruption near your place of work and how travel links might be affected where they live. Are there any individual circumstances you should take account of (i.e. disabled or pregnant staff) that could make travel more hazardous or difficult? Bear in mind your duty of care for the health & safety of staff - you could be liable if employees feel pressurised to travel to work in dangerous conditions - a balanced approach is advisable.
Where you do have good grounds to suspect malingering, then you could invoke formal disciplinary procedures - but make sure you have some evidence.