Winter brings not only the chance of snow, but additional issues that a workplace may need to address. Adverse weather can result in both travel troubles and an increase in employee sickness which can all result in staff shortages and business disruption.
Employers should revisit any current policies and procedures in place and remind staff of the appropriate protocols as early in the winter season as possible.
Employers should have a clear policy in place so that employees know what is expected in terms of getting to work when adverse weather hits. Approaching the subject in advance reduces misunderstandings and potential conflicts.
Should an employee be unable to attend work as a result of bad weather, they should be advised to inform their employer as soon as possible on the day that they cannot attend work.
Employees are not automatically entitled to pay if they are not able to get to work because of bad weather and travel disruptions. An employer should set out if any discretionary, informal arrangements may be made for employees who are willing and available to work but unable to get in to work due to cancellations on public transport. Employer and employees may come to an agreement to deduct annual leave for any days where the employee was unable to get to work due to weather.
It may be also be necessary to take a more relaxed approach to lateness policies where employees are late to work because of weather. Temporary provisions may be put in place to allow workers to come into work at a later time on a temporary basis or allow workers to make up for time lost at a later date once disruption has minimised.
If employers decide to fully or partly close their business, reduce employee’s hours or require purely skeleton staff to come in then in these circumstances workers will still be entitled to their normal pay.
Employees should be invited to approach employers in advance of possible “snow days” and outline any requirements they may have in order that both employee and employer can come to a harmonious arrangement.
For employees with children, where schools are closed and you are unable to leave your child this is classed as an ’emergency situation’ and you have the right to take unpaid time off unless your contract of employment or workplace policies state otherwise. Alternatively, it can be agreed to take any days during this time as holiday.
Flexibility is key and employers should be more open to alternative working solutions where it is not possible for employees to work their usual hours. Making good use of IT systems to enable employees to work from home and agreeing temporary hours will assist in minimising disruption in the workplace and maintain a positive and productive work environment.
Winter colds and flu mean more staff calling in sick. Again, employers should ensure that employees know when, how and who they have to contact on the first day of sickness and what information they may be required to produce.
There is likely to be an increase in volume of absent employees as a result of winter related sickness. Employers need to ensure the same standard of care is applied to all staff and sickness policies are adhered to so as to prevent grievances or claims being brought for employer’s failure to adhere topolicies and procedures.
It is prudent to monitor absence over the winter period in line with previous absences as there may be underlying issues concerning a frequently absent employee which may need to be addressed.
Over the winter period employers should remind staff of any Staff Handbook or relevant policy and procedures in place and invite staff to raise any queries or concerns as early on as possible. If you would like us to review existing policies in place, please contact the Employment Team at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors.This article was written by Emel Hamit, Trainee Solicitor in the Employment Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of February 2019.