29th January, 2019
Handling Adverse Weather in the Workplace
With Heavy weather promised for the next few days, here is a reminder of the importance to have an adverse weather in the workplace plan prepared. ACAS recommend that a clear policy for adverse weather is in place so all employees are aware of what is expected of them.
However, it is important to be flexible with employees if they are unable to safely travel to work it may be possible that some roles could be performed from home. Alternatively the employee could take the day as holiday. ACAS also say “employees are not automatically entitled to pay if unable to get to work because of bad weather”.
If employees cannot get to work due to the bad weather, they should inform the employer as soon as possible, this will allow for any alternatives to be agreed (if possible). Some contracts and workplace policies may have special arrangements including pay arrangements.
If employer-provided transport is cancelled due to of bad weather or travel disruption, and a worker was otherwise ready, willing and available to work, the worker should be paid for any working time they have missed. But if employees refuse to use the transport then they could be at risk of not being paid.
In the case of Edwards and Others V the Secretary of State for Justice UKEAT/0123/14, the Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed an appeal against a first instance decision which held that a group of employees did not have a reasonable belief that they were exposed to serious and imminent danger when refusing to be transported by their employer during adverse weather conditions. The employees claimed that they had been subjected to a detriment following the incident and that unlawful deductions had been made from their wages.
The case involved a group of prison officers employed at HMP Dartmoor. The prison had a detailed adverse weather policy in place, particularly because it was surrounded by various roads which were susceptible to adverse weather. The policy stated that in the event of adverse weather, employees should gather at a designated pick-up point and remain there for three hours after their scheduled start time (unless they were collected earlier than that period). Provided the employees remained at the pick up point, they would be paid in full for the hours they were scheduled to work that day.
The claimants in the case were aware of the policy and indeed gathered at the pick up point, which was a supermarket car park, along with around 40 other employees when, due to heavy snow fall, the access road to the prison was closed by the Highways Authority. The prison sent some of their own 4×4 vehicles to collect the employees, from the designated pick-up spot. However, the claimants refused to travel in the 4×4 vehicles. They instead stayed at the pick-up spot for the required three hours and then went back home. The claimants were then not paid for their schedule hours.
The claimants’ claims were dismissed by the Employment Tribunal held that the Claimants did not have reasonable belief that travelling in the 4×4 vehicles was dangerous. The EAT has subsequently overturned the decision stating that the tribunal did not give sufficient reasoning for their judgement.
There is little case law on concerning adverse weather and its impact on the workplace. While this case may offer some assistance in the future.
In the meantime, we would recommend that employers have a clear adverse weather policy in place, and made sure that employees are informed of any altered working arrangements during periods of adverse weather.
For further information and advice in relation to adverse weather provisions in you workplace, please contact Claire Brook
Employment Law Partner
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