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What's New? > Employers need to mend the roof before the storms

Employers need to mend the roof before the storms

Published: 19th December 2013

With the threat of harsh weather on the heels of Christmas, as in previous hard winters, UK business is likely to lose millions of working hours due to employees not turning in for work.   

But despite many businesses suffering drastic cuts in output by staff absence, or where outlets are forced to close due to lack of staff, too many employers get caught out each year by the bad weather and donít tackle employment contracts when the sun is shining.

As employees are not legally entitled to receive payment if not at work, they are not entitled to be paid if they do not get to work due to travel disruption.  But having clear adverse weather and journey into work policies in place can help avoid confusion and disagreements with staff, by setting out the steps that employees should take to get to work and what will happen if they are late or do not attend. 

For example, the contract might say that the employeeís enforced absence will be treated as unpaid time off work. This would have to be clearly set out in the contract of employment to avoid being treated as an unauthorised deduction of pay. The absence could be treated as holiday, but again, this has to be agreed in the contract because employers canít force employees to take holiday at a certain time without notice.  Or, the contract might say that the absence will be paid, but the employee must make up the time later.

But if itís the employers who close their business premises at short notice, they cannot usually withhold pay.

Where schools are shut, employees can ask for unpaid time off to look after dependants and how this works in practice, for example by being taken as holiday, should be covered by the employment contract. 

Staff manuals can play a part too, encouraging employees to consider alternative ways of getting to work, or, if there are none, it should encourage employees to work from home where this is possible. It should also remind employees of the terms of the employment contract.

Said Kim Faivelowitz, employment expert with Ward Gethin Archer solicitors : ďThe important thing is to have a policy in place, make sure everyone knows and understands what it covers, and then make sure that it is applied fairly and consistently.  Itís no good having a clear policy for all employees and then giving one employee a sympathetic nod, but penalising another.Ē

He/she added:  ďItís also important that too much pressure isnít put on employees to risk their safety to get to work.  And itís always worth remembering that making a payment where people were genuinely unable to get to work, may be a bigger boost to business once the snow has cleared.Ē

If you require further information on the above issue or any other employment matter, please contact a member of our Employment Law team at your nearest office by clicking here.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.