How To Manage Adverse Weather Absence
Updated: 30 January 2019
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.
My tips will help you remove 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. 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.
To Pay or Not To Pay
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. However, this is one of those employment scenarios where the letter of law says one thing, but common sense dictates a more pragmatic approach. The financial burden on your business of paying staff even though they are not working because of bad weather may be outweighed by the benefits. Staff morale and your reputation as a good employer may benefit in the long run if you pay staff on a snow day.
Alternatives to Attending Work
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.
- Parental Leave – ff the closure of schools/nurseries is longer than one day and for this extended period, individuals cannot put alternative arrangements into place to care for nursery children and school children Parental Leave may be granted if the individual’s entitlement has not already been exhausted.
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 are closing your business but employees are able to work from home, you must pay them their normal wages.
If an employee is unable to work because you have made the decision to close the premises, this will in effect be a period of lay-off. With-holding pay could bring risks of claims for unauthorised deduction from wages, therefore unless you have a contractual clause allowing for unpaid lay-off you should pay your employee their normal wages.
If you would like me to review your contract of employment and employee handbook 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.
- Make it clear to employees when the policy will apply and what you consider to be adverse weather. Advise employees of the sources that will be used to establish whether conditions are safe for travel, e.g. police, public transport, local authority.
- Remind employees of your absence reporting procedures and who employees should report to if they are struggling to attend work.
- Advise employees of the position on pay in respect of adverse weather related absences. An employer is generally under no obligation to pay employees who do not make it to work due to adverse weather, however it’s advisable to consider suitable alternatives before deciding to withhold pay. Alternatives could include allowing employees to work from another location, flexible working or using holidays.
- Adverse weather may result in the closure of schools and this may present many employees with childcare problems. Employees have the right to reasonable unpaid time off to deal with emergency situations regarding their children, however this time off is intended to allow for alternative arrangements to be made and not for employees to look after their children themselves. Employers should ensure the right balance is struck between the need to get work done and recognising the childcare difficulties which arise in these circumstances.
- Explain how you will communicate with staff during any closure, for example: through your website or via email, text or phone call.
- Balance safety with unauthorised absence or those taking advantage of a bad weather situation.
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.