Adverse Weather

The UK is at risk of snow and heavy rain over the next few weeks, and such adverse weather conditions can create some difficult issues for employers.

Employees cant make it to work

Perhaps their car is completely iced over, the roads near their house aren’t gritted, or they don’t feel that it’s safe enough to attempt the journey into work.

In such situations, employees should contact their manager to see whether alternative arrangements can be made. For example, can the employee find different transport, or walk to work? Can they work from home? Can they work on an alternative site temporarily?

If no alternative arrangement is practical then the employee will have to take annual leave or unpaid leave. If you operate a time off in lieu (TOIL) system, then the employee may be able to make up the hours another time in order to avoid losing pay.

The workplace cant open

If, despite your best efforts, you cannot open up the workplace then the choice of whether or not to attend the premises is taken away from the employees and so you would normally need to pay them their usual wages.

If it is not an option for them to work from home or from an alternative site, then you may be able to put employees on temporary lay off, as long as you have a clause in their contract allowing you to do so, or if you obtain their consent at the time.

Lay off is a kind of temporary redundancy, used to get through periods when not much work is available. The employees’ continuous employment is preserved and they are expected to return to work when the situation improves.

There are some other eligibility requirements for lay off, such as the individual being an employee (rather than a worker) and having been employed for at least a month. You would need to pay them a statutory guarantee payment of £35 per workless day, (or their usual daily rate, whichever is lower) for a maximum of five days in any 13 week period. After this, they would not be paid.

If you need to lay off some, but not all, employees, make sure that you choose who is laid off in a fair and non-discriminatory way.

Employees may take annual leave in this situation, but you would probably not be able to insist that they took holiday if they did not want to. This is because you would be unlikely to have time to fulfil the notice requirements of double the length of notice as the amount of holiday which you wish them to take.

Weather conditions deteriorate during the day

In this situation, you may decide to close the workplace, in which case the above advice applies. If the workplace remains open then it is the choice of the employees whether or not they go home. If they go home, then they should take annual leave or unpaid leave.

In the case where you and an employee disagree on whether it is reasonable for an employee to go home, it is usually best to be understanding, as people have different tolerance levels of working and travelling in cold and icy conditions.

The workplace is severely damaged

In rare circumstances, your premises may be damaged by burst pipes, roofs collapsing due to the weight of snow, or flooding.

In such an event, you may need to lay off employees for longer periods of time. Bear in mind that if lay off continues for four consecutive weeks or six weeks within a 13-week period, the employees can ask to be made redundant and may be entitled to statutory redundancy pay.

You should also check your insurance policies, as sometimes payments to staff are covered.

Employees have been injured due to extreme weather conditions

Employees who are not fit to attend work would take sick leave in the normal way.

The workplace is not safe or comfortable

The Health and Safety Executive recommends a minimum temperature of 16C for workplaces such as offices where the nature of work is fairly inactive, or 13C if the work requires physical effort.

Although we cannot advise on health and safety issues, you should bear in mind that you have a duty of care towards employees and so you may be liable for an accident at work which could have been avoided.

Employees cant attend work because their childrens school is closed

Employees would take unpaid dependants’ leave.

Last minute lack of childcare would be classed as an emergency. Although dependants’ leave is intended to allow the employee time to make alternative arrangements and not to care for the child themself, in reality this may be very difficult.

Another example of dependents’ leave would be an employee needing to take time off to accompany a dependant, who has slipped on the ice, to get medical help.

If you have any questions, please contact us by emailing or by phoning 01392 247436.

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