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Let It Snow?

15th December, 2011

Although we are yet to experience the extreme weather we had last December, with forecast of snow, frost and wind, employers should be preparing themselves to avoid a repeat of the chaos caused by employees prevented from attending work.  The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimated that the adverse weather cost the economy in the region of £1 billion a day last winter.

During periods of adverse weather, a major concern for employers is employees’ attendance and the implications of non-attendance.

If employees are late arriving or cannot attend work at all, they have no statutory right to receive pay for this period (subject to any contractual provisions to the contrary); although this does not mean that the employer cannot exercise discretion and pay employees in this circumstance.

If employees cannot attend work, options for employers to consider include: allowing employees to work from home; to take a paid holiday; to take a day’s unpaid leave or to allow employees to make up the lost time.

Employers have a duty of care to employees under health and safety legislation; and an employer should avoid placing an employee under pressure to attend work if this could result in them taking disproportionate and unnecessary risks in doing so.

Employers should have an adverse weather policy in place which sets out the steps employees are required to take to try and arrive at work (and on time); procedures for reporting absence; pay during any period of absence due to adverse weather; such absence and possible alternatives to unpaid leave.  Such a policy could also refer to time off for dependents which may need to be taken in an emergency situation such as school closures.  Employers should ensure that the policy applies to all employees equally and fairly to avoid any indirect discrimination claims.

If you need any assistance in drawing an adverse weather policy or have any queries regarding employment law issues in respect of adverse weather conditions please do not hesitate to contact Jane Hilyer in the employment team.

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