Adverse weather such as flooding or snow can cause various headaches for employers including: absence or lateness due to travel disruptions; the closure of nurseries or schools leading to childcare problems for employees and health and safety concerns.
Having well thought out contingencies in place is essential to ensure your business continues to operate without too much disruption.
An Adverse Weather Policy is a must as it removes any confusion about what you expect from your employee’s in terms of notification of absence and manages their expectations about what will happen in terms of recording the absence and payment if they don’t make it into work.
My Top Tips
When there is a period of adverse weather you will have employee’s who are unable to attend work, or you may decide to close your business, or part of it, due to adverse weather. In these circumstances you need to decide how that lost time will be recorded and paid.
- Stipulate who employee’s should contact with any time limits – include contact details for extra clarity ie mobile phone numbers
- Situations to notify – you may want to include notification of anticipated lateness due to disruptions caused to roads and public transport.
Alternatives to Attending Work
The first point to remember is that you pay your employee’s in exchange for them providing you with a service ‘work’. So if they don’t attend work and haven’t made alternative arrangements you don’t have to pay. I wouldn’t recommend putting pressure on employee’s to make a dangerous journey as there could be health and safety consequences – so you need some alternatives to attending work.
So what alternatives can you consider?
- Holidays – allow retrospective or on the day approval for a limited time
- Proportioned Holiday – consider allowing a day’s annual leave to be split down into hours thus allowing employee’s to arrive later and leave early until conditions improve
- Making Up Lost Hours – if you don’t currently have a flex system in place and are implementing a temporary system ensure you stipulate the time frame by which any negative balance must be brought into a positive balance i.e. one month
- Working from Home – not ideal for many jobs but with lap tops and mobile phones it is become more widely acceptable and most office based jobs can be adapted for a short period of time, if this will be an option ensure that the type of work is agreed in advance so you know exactly what your employee’s are doing and what work, if any would need to be redistributed amongst those who can attend work
- Unpaid Leave – if all paid options are exhausted allow the employee to take a period of time as unpaid
- Dependents Leave – if schools are closed and parents do not have alternative childcare this is likely to constitute an emergency situation and entitle the employee to time off to deal with the situation.
Dealing With Lateness
As a general rule employees must be ready and willing to perform their duties at their contractual start time. So where an employee does make it into work but are late you are entitled to treat the absence in the same way as any other period of unauthorised absence and not pay them.
I recommend investigating the reasons behind the lateness, for instance can they provide proof of the disruption and how did other employees who live in the same area manage?
An occasional incident of lateness for reasons beyond the employees control is a fact of life and a refusal to accept that and begin deducting pay would not be good practice and could result in bad feeling from your employees. I recommend leaving deductions to those employees who don’t turn up for work or you feel are abusing your policy.
I’m Closing What Should I Do?
If you decide to close your business premises due to the weather then you are preventing the employee from working and therefore with-holding pay could bring risks of claims for unauthorised deduction from wages. Contractual clauses relating to ‘unpaid lay-off’ could prevent this in the future – if you would like me to review your contracts please get in touch.
Treating employees consistently is the key to getting the best reaction from your staff, so keep this in mind when taking decisions regarding pay or other arrangements. By being more flexible and not just deducting pay, it is more likely that you will motivate staff and make up for lost time. Finally, don’t forget to recognise the efforts of those who do show-up, particularly if you have decided to provide paid leave to those who didn’t make it in.
Adverse Weather Policy
To make your life easier the next time the weather affects employees’ ability to attend work, I recommended implementing an Adverse Weather Policy now! This gives you the time to consider how you can ensure business continuity and therefore develop a strategy that works for your business in advance of the disruption actually happening.
Implementing a policy now will also give your managers time to understand their responsibilities so that they can deal with employees consistently. It will also help to set employee expectations as well.