We're used to seeing bad weather on a regular basis, but we are also now seeing more severe and frequent weather systems sweeping the country. This clearly has an impact on businesses, not least in the ability of their employees and workers to perform their duties.
Given the snowstorms and freezing temperatures of the past week, now may be a good time for businesses to review their policies and procedures for dealing with employment issues arising from unexpected and extreme weather conditions.
Whilst introducing policies covering extreme weather and travel disruption may, at first glance, seem like a knee-jerk reaction to recent events, weather and its impact on the ability of employees and workers to attend work can have a fundamental influence on employers and their businesses.
Employers should also bear in mind that circumstances affecting the personal lives of employees and workers, such as school closures and childcare arrangements, may also limit attendance at the workplace. As a result, the foreseeable effects of severe weather and travel disruption may also need to be provided for in policies and procedures implemented to address poor weather conditions.
In order to address and hopefully resolve the issue of staffing levels during instances of extreme and often unexpected weather conditions, employers may wish to put in place clear policies setting out, amongst other things:-
- Arrangements for employees and workers to notify their employer of the difficulties that they are encountering;
- Arrangements for employees and workers to work in other, potentially more accessible workplaces (including the individual employee's or worker's own home where this is reasonable and can be accommodated);
- Requirements for employees and workers to monitor the situation throughout the working day and to make arrangements to attend work once the weather has improved;
- Procedures to be followed (including references to existing disciplinary policies and procedures) where employees and workers are found to be taking unreasonable advantage of weather conditions purely to avoid coming in to work;
- Arrangements for providing flexibility on a "one off" basis to working time in the event of poor weather to provide employees and workers with some leeway in travelling to and from work;
- Procedures for addressing how absence caused by poor weather conditions will be addressed in terms of salary (i.e. employers may wish to designate such time as "special leave" where employees and workers are able to meet certain conditions that allow them to qualify for pay), and
- Reminders for employees and workers of the statutory rights that they may have where, for example, disruption caused by bad weather requires them to take care of their children and dependants.
This is not intended as an exhaustive list of the factors that an employer may wish to take into consideration in instances where staffing levels are affected by severe weather.
Employers may wish to create further reasonable procedures to be followed by employees and workers depending on other factors such as the nature and size of their business and the services that they provide.
However, as rare as extreme weather may seem to be, the weather conditions of the past week are a grim reminder that such weather and the ensuing disruption that it causes are possible and need to be taken into account.
This article is not a substitute for legal advice on specific legal circumstances. It is intended as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. Knight Polson Limited trading as QualitySolicitors Knight Polson accepts no responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.
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