How to manage staff absences due to bad weather

With most of the UK experiencing adverse weather conditions this month, many businesses will be left facing the cost of disruption, especially when it comes to staff absence.

Commercial Litigation and Employment Partner and solicitor Michael Shroot shares how employers can prepare for adverse weather conditions and managing absence effectively.

Legally, employees must attend the office unless they are unwell, on annual leave or on maternity/paternity leave agreed with the employer. If they do not attend the office as stipulated in their contracts, they do not usually have the right to payment.

The recent weather has raised instances where staff have been unable to attend work due to travel chaos and school closures. If an employee cannot get to work then they are not ready to work and therefore not entitled to pay. However, this may be contested in a number of ways: if the non-performance of work is involuntary and unavoidable: the custom and practice of the business: or the Employee has an emergency due to having dependants and the employee may  be entitled to wages.

Employers should adopt a clear view on this view within employee contracts and policies to prevent misunderstandings.

Providing options for taking extra leave or working remotely can play a huge part in maintaining staff motivation and morale during periods of weather disruption. Employers should therefore consider planning in advance so staff have the ability to work from home via the use of IT systems and internet log in options.

In cases where getting to work is paramount, we have witnessed companies investing in 4×4’s and the provision of overnight accommodation to ensure they can continue business as normal.

If as a business you are forced to close your offices or headquarters, you may be unable to dock wages from your employees for not attending work. The exceptions to this would be for example where the employer can rely on contractual terms such as a “lay off” clause or if the employee voluntarily agrees to be laid-off without pay.

If you suspect a staff member is using the weather as an excuse to stay at home then this should be dealt with under the company’s disciplinary policy and the ACAS Code of Practice on discipline.

For employers, keeping pace with the constant flow of new rules and regulations can be very difficult and the financial implications of Employment Tribunals are often a worrying management distraction. To contact our expert team click here.