With roads and public transport affected, employees may not be able to get to work or may need to take an emergency day off to look after children as many schools have closed.
Rajiv Joshi – partner specialising in employment law at Blake Morgan – states that employers should fully understand what the law says and ideally have an adverse weather policy.
Joshi explained: “Snow-related absence raises several issues for employers, not least of which is the question, should employees be paid during such absence?
“Employers should consider putting together an adverse weather policy setting out the arrangements in place in relation to salary arrangements, home working and notification procedures. This will ensure consistency across the organisation and more certainty for all staff.”
He added: “Snow and adverse weather can turn into a nightmare for employers if not properly managed, but introducing a policy to cover unexpected disruptions of this nature could save employers from a real headache.”
Blake Morgan has offered the following employment law guidelines for employers:
- Employees who are able to work from home, or wherever they happen to be stranded, should generally be paid. However bear in mind, that unless their contract clearly states otherwise, employers are not technically obliged to pay employees for time they take off work. Only employees who are ready, willing and available to work are entitled to be paid.
- Employers should always remember their duty of care and the responsibility they have to ensure the health and safety of their staff. It is therefore not advised to encourage employees to travel in treacherous conditions.
- Where flexible working arrangements are unavailable, docking pay for those who could not make it to work is not always a good idea as employees may argue that it is unlawful. The most prudent way to manage it is to treat any time off as paid annual leave.
- Staff should be treated consistently to avoid discrimination claims.
- Unless an employer genuinely believes that a member of staff has been playing the system, it will usually be unwise to take disciplinary action for a failure to get to work disruption. Employers considering this should always fully investigate an absence.
The Licensed Trade Charity has also urged pubs to look out for elderly customers in the freezing weather.