It seems we have a weekly, if not daily weather, warning these days. Often, we are warned not to take unnecessary journeys. So is your employee coming to work during adverse weather an unnecessary journey? What is the position for employers and employees in a situation like this?
As these adverse weather conditions are becoming common place, employers need to decide what policy will apply in an unusual absence situation. The second important step is clearly communicating this approach to employees through an appropriate policy. The policy should set out the relevant reporting procedure and in what situations an absence will be considered unauthorised. This can be critical in deciding if disciplinary action is necessary if it is felt that someone has taken advantage of a situation. The third step is to apply that policy consistently.
Where the workplace is open and the employee does not attend, is late or leaves early, then the general rule is that the employer is not obliged to pay the employee. This will of course be guided by custom and practice within an organisation and consultation may be required to change the previous practice. If the employer decides to close the business then they will generally be required to compensate employees as normal; although employees may agree to work back the time, take time in lieu, annual leave or unpaid leave if the options are discussed and communicated in advance.
Each situation will be different and common sense will need to be used where there are clear health and safety risks to certain employees. The possibility of some employees working from home should also be considered and planned for in accordance with the organisation’s business continuity planning. As with all employment matters, early communication with employees is key and likely to lead to less disputes in the long run. Your policy should be reviewed and amended appropriately to fit your organisation’s requirements. While it might be too late for Storm Ophelia to get a policy in place, you can make a policy decision now on how future situations and potential upcoming snow and ice situations will be treated and communicate this to your employees by all appropriate channels.
Linda Hynes, Head of Employment & Data Protection at Ogier Leman has provided a template Unusual Absence Policy which will be useful to employers in deciding what policy to implement in their organisations. To access the checklist click here.
Disclaimer: This article is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. No liability is accepted by Ogier Leman for any action taken or not taken in reliance on the information set out in this publication. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. Any and all information is subject to change.