Throughout the UK, employees struggle to make it into work due to the weather conditions, with high winds, rain, floods, ice and even talk of snow on the way, nearly everyone has been affected to some degree, be it roads closed, or train and bus services being cancelled. When the weather makes it difficult to travel, employers should consider how this could impact the workplace, as well as setting out clear expectations for staff on how potential absences will be handled.
Below are a few questions that come up time and again – by considering all of these, a business should be able to handle adverse weather with as minimal disruption to the business as possible.
- Do I have to pay staff if they can’t make it into the office?
There is no legal right for staff to be paid by an employer for travel delays unless traveling is part of their normal working day. Employers may have contractual, collective or custom arrangements in place for how to handle travel disruption. Before making a decision on the situation where someone is unable to get to work, review staff contracts, handbooks and how this has been handled in the past.
- How flexible do I have to be?
A flexible approach to working hours and staff location may be a solution. The positive handling of situations such as bad weather and travel disruption can be an opportunity for an employer to enhance staff morale and productivity. Can employees work from home? Could alternative working patterns be put in place? Is there a possibility to swap shifts around between staff?
- How can I avoid treating some members of staff unfairly?
All measures taken should follow the correct procedures, even if businesses suffer from the consequences. Every member of staff should be treated the same, and the sooner employees understand what is expected from them – correct notice, working from home, working later to make up the time – the better. This will help maintain good, fair and consistent employment relations and help prevent complaints.
- What level of responsibility do my team have?
Staff members should consider in advance how they would handle adverse weather and have fall back plans in case the situation arises. It is important that they are told that they need to consider this ahead of time.
- Ask employees to consider the following:
How will they get to work? Trains and buses might be operating on reduced timetables or be running earlier or later than normal, road travel could also be delayed by road closures or slow driving. They should consider alternative routes or travel methods to get into work and back home again.
Do they have arrangements in place if their child cannot get to school or the school is closed? Or if the normal childcare provider is unavailable, what are practical back-up arrangements that they can put in place?
- What happens if my staff want to take unpaid leave?
In emergency situations, an employee is entitled to take unpaid time off to look after dependants, and in some cases, extreme adverse weather could be considered an emergency – especially if schools have shut down or businesses closed. However, whether this is classed as an “emergency” is still at the discretion of the company.
‘Time Off for Dependants’ means that an employee is entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off, although it is not stated how much is reasonable. In most cases a day or two will be sufficient to deal with the immediate crisis, but it will depend on the individual circumstances. The employee must tell the employer as soon as possible the reason for the absence and how long they expect to be absent. Whilst some employers may offer this as holiday, this is only with the agreement of the employee – and if the employer chooses to offer or accept it.
- What can I do ahead of time to avoid disruption in the future?
Consider implementing or reviewing the company policy on adverse weather in order to know how best to deal with future scenarios. The policy should cover the steps employees will be required to follow to try to get into work on time and how the business will continue if they cannot.
Issues such as what is done about late arrivals and how this will affect wages should also be covered. Having such a policy will mean there is much less scope for confusion and disagreement.
If you need guidance on your legal obligations or other HR issues, please call 0845 224 7013 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.