Let it Snow! Winter weather employment travel advice

February 2015

 

With severe winter weather now upon us, disruption is inevitable and both employers and employees should consider how this could impact on the workforce.

As we have seen in previous years, conditions such as these can cause widespread disruptions to roads and public transport preventing many employees from reaching their normal place of employment.

The level and scale of disruption will undoubtedly impact employers and businesses throughout the county due to lost productivity. However, employees are expected to make every reasonable effort to attend for work, but without compromising their health and safety.

The onus is the employee to attend work. Generally there is no legal right entitling you to be paid by your employer if you are unable to attend work because of snow and transportation problems and technically it can be treated as an unauthorised absence. 

However, some employers may have contractual, collective or custom and practice arrangements in place relating to pay in such situations so you should also consider whether you would be entitled to be paid in accordance with any of these.

Workplace closures

If the employer closes the office or place of work due to adverse weather, you would generally be entitled to be paid. If your employer makes a deduction from your pay you would have the right to bring a claim for unauthorised deduction of wages and/or breach of contract to recover the sums owed. The exception to this is if you agree otherwise or your employment contract has a clause entitling your employer to lay you off without pay. There are complex rules which apply to such clauses and since you may be entitled to pay at a specified rate you should take legal advice.

What are the alternatives?

You should check to see whether your employer has a policy to cover adverse weather. Where your usual means of transport is out of action you should explore other ways of getting into work. You should not however feel pressurised into risking your safety.

A flexible approach is likely to be the most effective way of dealing with bad weather and travel disruption and you could discuss with your employer the possibility of working from home, the nearest office, being paid but making the time up at a later date or taking the time off as paid annual leave or as unpaid time off to care for dependants.

Your employer cannot force you to take the time off as holiday without your agreement unless your employment contract contains an express right entitling it to do so.

Employees who do actually make it into work?

Employees who have battled into work, often against the odds, may resent the fact that others made less effort, especially if, once they are in the office, they have to work extra hard to cover those who are absent. Ideally, the employees' efforts should not go unnoticed.

Employers should carefully observe health and safety regulations which state that indoor workplaces such as offices should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing and normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius.

Employers should continue to monitor weather warnings throughout the day and let employees leave when appropriate to avoid any treacherous travel conditions on the way home. Never ask staff to disregard official weather and travel advice.

School Closures

Schools are often the first to close during adverse weather, and numerous employees could be affected by this. In emergency situations an employee is entitled to take unpaid time off to look after dependants. Adverse weather closures can be classed as an emergency. Parents have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off where it is necessary to deal with the unexpected disruption, termination or breakdown of arrangements to care for the child. Therefore, the right to time off may vary as per each individual’s circumstance. You should check with your employer to see what their approach is, but usually you will not be entitled to be paid for this day. You are however protected from suffering any detriment for taking the time off. You must however tell your employer of the reason for your absence as soon as reasonably practical and how long you expect to be away from work.

Please contact our Employment Expert, Albert Bargery, for further advice.

 

Tel:  01296 318508

Em:  albert.bargery@parrottandcoalesllp.co.uk