Whilst many employees are currently working from home, for employees who cannot work from home and need to travel to work this bout of bad weather is likely to cause disruption. Employers should review their adverse weather policy and circulate a copy to employees explaining the employer’s expectations during snow and ice.
Whilst employers may wish to encourage employees to make all reasonable efforts to attend work, a balance needs to be struck with the ensuring the health and safety of employees travelling to work in adverse weather. It is therefore important that employers stay up to date with the Met Office weather forecast, any weather warnings and local travel advice; ensuring that they do not deviate from the official advice given e.g. regarding travel.
Employers should communicate their policy to employees; which may include:
- Requiring employees to communicate with their managers as soon as possible if they will be late or unable to attend work.
- Allowing employees to come in later and leave earlier than usual.
- Allowing employees to make up lost time at a later date.
- Confirm the position on pay for ‘snow days’. There is no automatic right to be paid if employees are unable to attend work however, if employees have historically been paid for ‘snow days’ this could create a custom and practice to be paid for such days. An alternative may be to allow employees to take time off as unpaid leave or annual leave. If however the workplace closes employees are entitled to be paid.
- Where employees are affected by the closure of schools or nurseries employees may have childcare difficulties preventing them attending work. In which case, an employer should be aware that employees have a statutory right to take reasonable time off to care for dependents. Such leave is unpaid (subject to the contrary being stated in the contract or policy). Employees should not be forced to take their annual leave to care for dependants, albeit they can elect to do so.
- Of course, some employees may take advantage and use the bad weather as an excuse to stay at home. If an employer has reason to believe this is not genuine, this should be investigated and consideration given to whether disciplinary action should be commenced.
An employee raising concerns regarding e.g. travelling safety in adverse weather conditions can amount to making a protected disclosure (i.e. whistleblowing), and as such employees should not be subject to any detriment or dismissed for having raised those concerns. Furthermore, care should be taken not to dismiss or subject an employee to detriment (e.g. disciplinary action) where they have taken action or propose to take action to protect their health and safety where they ‘reasonably believe the danger to be serious and imminent’, for example leaving work early as the weather is getting worse and roads dangerous to drive. We recommend seeking specific legal advice if such issues are raised.
This is only intended to be a summary and not specific legal advice. If you would like further information or advice about managing your workforce, please do contact a member of our employment law team.
For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.