January 31, 2012

Navigator News – When Winter Bites Hard

When an employee is unable to make it into work because of snow or other inclement weather, what are the implications for businesses in terms of payment and how can they minimise the disruptive impact nonattendance can cause?

Strictly speaking, employers will not need to pay employees for days on which they fail to attend for work unless contractual arrangements ovide otherwise (which is unlikely). However docking pay is likely to lead to discontent among those aff ected. Provided employers are satisfi ed that attendance was not possible due to the weather, it may therefore be preferable to pay employees for short periods of weather-related absence with the proviso that time lost will be made up at a later stage, or alternatively agree with the employee that such absence should be taken as paid holiday. If of course an employer considers that an employee is using the bad weather as an excuse to swing the lead then it should deal with the matter under its disciplinary procedure.

When snow forces schools to close, some employees may feel compelled to remain at home if they cannot make alternative childcare arrangements, even if technically they could make it into work. While employees have a statutory right to take a reasonable amount of time off where necessary because of the unexpected disruption of childcare arrangements, it is far from clear that a school closure would qualify so as to give the employee that entitlement. However, the right in any event is to unpaid time off and employers may wish to take a sympathetic position. Where snow or bad weather can be anticipated, employers could consider allowing employees to remain at home and work from there where possible.

Those employees who do manage to make their way in to work may fi nd it galling that others may appear not to have made a genuine effort to do so. It is especially important to ensure that all employees are treated consistently, and for that reason whatever route employers decide to adopt they would be well advised to set it out clearly in an adverse weather policy so that everybody knows where they stand.

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“Lucas first became involved with Navigator in the summer of 2011. We have been delighted with the style and delivery of advice we have received from Navigator since then and in the summer of 2012 we decided to extend our relationship with them. For us, having lawyers who understand the sector as well as our business is as important as their knowledge of employment law and with Navigator, this is what we get. They have been true to their word and have consistently re-engaged with us to ensure that the relationship we have with them is working in the interests of Lucas.”

Yolanda Luca Director

S. Luca of Musselburgh Limited