- Posted Tuesday November 5, 2013
The worst winter for decades and record breaking snow has been predicted from November; so it’s about time to get the adverse weather policy down from the top shelf and dust it off...
This is a brief overview of what practices should be aware of when faced with a situation in which staff are unable to attend work caused by bad weather.
Are employees automatically entitled to pay if they are unable to attend work due to bad weather?
Employees are obliged to attend work in terms of their contracts of employment, even in the case of extreme weather conditions. Employers would be within their rights to refuse to pay an employee who cannot make it into work due to the adverse weather conditions.
However, some employees understand that adverse weather does not happen regularly and take a flexible approach. As per guidance from Personnel Today, organisations may find the financial cost of paying staff when they are unable to attend work due to adverse weather conditions is beneficial in the long run as it is likely to have a positive impact on morale and productivity, which is outweighed by such financial costs occurred by employees unable to attend work. Other options may include an individual taking time off as annual leave or alternatively employers may allow individuals to make up time off work at a later date. Whatever approach an organisation takes should be clearly communicated to employees and should be consistent and fair to all. A clearly defined policy will be beneficial to have to help support actions taken by an organisation.
Something to keep in mind are employees who live locally and are more likely to attend work during adverse weather, who could become quite frustrated if they are continually attending work and other employees who are not attending work continue to be paid.
Do I need to apply a flexible approach for employees during the bad weather?
In an ideal situation adopting a flexible approach when staff are unable to attend work due to bad weather would be the most beneficial in terms of productivity and staff morale.
Employees should not be expected to put their health and safety at risk getting into work and therefore an employer should act reasonable and take a common sense approach for work arrangements during bad weather.
Many employers do take a flexible approach during periods of adverse weather conditions. As per guidance from the CIPD, allowing flexibility for those unable to travel will pay off in the long run as potentially this can lead employees to be more motivated when they are able to attend work.
Organisations often allow employees to work from home when they are unable to travel into work, which means productivity is not affected by bad weather. Other options organisations consider during periods of bad weather can include; adopting a flexible approach to working times, working from a different location closer to an individual’s home address (usually for larger organisations with a number of different sites) or arranging for staff to be brought to and from work (usually for key employees whom organisations are unable to function without as still need to provide an essential service, such as the emergency services); alternatively considering granting authorised holiday leave.
However, applying a flexible approach can often be difficult within a practice environment, home working for example is not necessarily something that can be adopted due to the nature of many roles within a practice setting and the needs of patients. Where flexible working is not an option then it would be advisable for practices to encourage staff to plan ahead and ensure employees are aware of the process to follow in the event they are unable to attend work due to adverse weather.
I think an employee is taking advantage of the bad weather as a reason for not attending work what can I do?
If an employee is regularly using the bad weather as a reason for non attendance or lateness to work and you feel they are taking advantage of the situation you need to refer to the practice’s disciplinary policy and make the employee aware that disciplinary action may be taken against them if you suspect an employee is using the bad weather as a reason for not attending work on a frequent basis.
An employee phones at 8am saying they will be unable to attend work as their child’s school has been closed due to the bad weather. What should I do in this situation?
An employee is entitled to unpaid leave in an emergency situation to look after dependents. A child’s school closing due to bad weather is likely to be classed as an emergency situation. However, you may wish to discuss with the employee what plans they have in place for the following days and when their likely return to work will be to enable you to cover the department effectively.
How should I plan ahead to ensure minimum disruption during periods of bad weather?
A clearly defined policy will be beneficial to have to help support actions taken by an organisation when employees are unable to attend work due to bad weather. Organisations are encouraged to review such policies and ensure it is made available to all employees.
Adverse weather policies should include details of the impact on pay when an individual is unable to attend work due to adverse weather. Employers are encouraged to confirm such details to individuals in order to set expectations from the offset, this will ensure any employee whose pay will be affected by taking time off work is not disgruntled when they receive their pay.
Staff should be aware of the process to follow in the event that they are unable to come into work, or are experiencing delays on their route into work in order to keep their employer fully updated in order for alternative plans (where possible) to be put into place to avoid minimum disruption.
Staff should be encouraged to plan ahead and consider their usual route may be disrupted by bad weather. Staff may be encouraged to plan their route in advance, and allow longer for their journey than usual.
Where employers have concerns that certain individual will be unable to come into work in advance, for example where bad weather is forecasted and an individual lives in a remote village, then it would be useful to ensure other employees are kept updated in regards to workloads to ensure minimum disruption in the likely event that the individual is unable to attend work.
Please note the above guidance is of a general nature. It is important that practices ensure policy guidelines and contractual obligations are followed.
In addition to the above FPM members can obtain further information via the FPM website. Alternatively members can also email specific questions about employment issues to firstname.lastname@example.org where your question will be treated in confidence and will normally be answered (by email) within 2 working days of submission.
Information from ACAS, Personnel Today and CIPD website has been used within this article.