With arctic conditions still ruling the UK, an adverse weather policy is essential for employers
With snow and ice covering much of the UK, and further heavy snow forecast, it is essential that employers have an adverse weather policy in place.
Having a well-communicated policy can help avoid conflict or confusion and ensure staff are treated fairly and consistently.
Employment law places the onus on an employee to get to work, regardless of the weather. So if an employee fails to turn up owing to bad weather, an employer is under no obligation to pay them. However, withholding pay can cause resentment by employees who have been kept away from work through no fault of their own.
If an employee fails to turn up owing to bad weather, an employer is under no obligation to pay them. However, withholding pay can cause resentment
An adverse weather policy would make it clear that all employees are expected to make a genuine effort to report for work at the recognised start time, which may entail having to make special arrangements to ensure they can attend each day. Any failure to turn up or lateness should trigger a requirement for an employee promptly to contact their line manager (not just anybody).
Where an employee is still unable to report for work on subsequent days or asks to leave early due to worsening weather, a policy can set out how consideration would be given to annual leave, flexi-leave, unpaid leave or (in exceptional circumstances) paid leave. Care should be exercised when imposing annual leave at short notice, as the absence of sufficient notice may lead to claims against the employer under the Working Time Regulations.
Any policy should also cover what parents should do if their local schools close and they have no alternative means of childcare. In law, an employee is entitled to a reasonable period of unpaid leave to put in place childcare arrangements, but arguments can arise when parents are facing a situation where they have to provide that cover themselves.
Any policy should also cover what parents should do if their local schools close and they have no alternative means of childcare
Anticipating adverse weather may facilitate arrangements to allow employees to take unexpected time off as annual leave and to work from home, if practical. These alternatives help avoid allegations that employers risked putting their employees in danger by encouraging them to brave unsafe conditions in an attempt to get to work.
Disclaimer: This briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Details correct at time of writing.
Sharon Latham is a partner at national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP.