Adverse weather

Adverse weather can represent many challenges to an employer with absence due to travel disruption or childcare commitments being a common occurrence.

Payment for absence due to weather

It is important to remember that employees who do not attend work due to bad weather are not entitled to be paid, unless this is agreed contractually, through a collective agreement or by custom. Some organisations may offer discretionary payments where an employee is unable to attend due to the weather, so an employer should take care and refer to contracts of employment or staff handbooks before any decision on payment is made.

Absence due to childcare or other commitments

In emergency situations, an employee is entitled to take unpaid time off work to make arrangement for the care of dependents (be aware this does not normally apply where the employee has failed to arrange childcare). Extreme weather is one of the circumstances where this entitlement can occur, especially when a school is closed on short notice. Employers should be aware that entitlement to unpaid leave on these grounds is only applicable for a reasonable period of time to make alternative childcare arrangements.

Flexibility

Flexibility can be significant for a business in the face of adverse weather conditions. As an employer consider whether you have processes in place that allow employees to work from home or can arrange flexible working hours. This can often have the added benefit of supporting the employee in difficult circumstances and improving morale as well as ensuring that a business can still function effectively.

Communication with employees

An employer should communicate to employees regarding alternative methods of travel, giving themselves more time to get to work, how to communicate with the employer if facing difficulty or with regards to workload, as well offering suggestions around flexible working and the creation of back up childcare arrangements. Remember, a prepared employee is more likely to attend work than one who has not considered any options beforehand.

Consider the implementation of policies concerning ‘adverse weather’ or ‘journeying to work’. These policies should consider how pay, absence and lateness are dealt with by the business as well as what is expected from the employee in these situations. Employees may also be more willing to submit to directions and processes if they are aware of them before the event.

Fairness

As with any workplace issue, it is of paramount importance that employers act fairly and consistently when dealing with employees. Not only will this serve to lower disputes, but it can also have a positive effect on the relationship between an employer and employee.

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