With the winter weather well and truly here Acas, the employment relations service, is reminding employers of the workplace issues that arise when snow and bad weather disrupt the working day.
Key points to remember
Employees are not automatically entitled to pay if unable to get to work because of bad weather
There is no legal right for staff to be paid by an employer for travel delays (unless the travel itself is constituted as working time or in some situations where the employer provides the transport). Some organisations offer discretionary payments for travel disruption or have their own informal arrangements for this purpose. Such arrangements are normally contained in staff contracts or handbooks or through collective agreements.
Be flexible where possible
A more flexible approach to matters such as working hours and location may be effective if possible. The handling of bad weather and travel disruption can be an opportunity for an employer to enhance staff morale and productivity by the way it is handled for example is there opportunity to work from home. Think about other issues such as alternative working patterns or who can cover at short notice.
Use information technology
Information technology could be useful in enabling a business to run effectively if many employees are absent from work for example using laptops or Blackberry smartphones.
Deal with issues fairly
Even if businesses are damaged by the effects of absent workers they should still ensure that any measures they take are carried out according to proper and fair procedure. This will help maintain good, fair and consistent employment relations and help prevent complaints to employment tribunals.
You may have experienced this situation last year and so now would be a good time to review your policy and think about how you handle future scenarios. It would be best to put an “adverse weather” or ‘journey into work’ policy into place which deals with the steps that employees are required to take to try to get into work on time and how the business will continue if they cannot. You need to decide how to deal with lateness and what will happen with regard to pay. Having such a policy should mean that there is much less scope for confusion and disagreement.
Over 9,000 people accessed Acas guidance during the snowfalls at the beginning of the year.
Jerry Gibson, Acas Director, says: “When we get heavy snow or other bad weather we find many employers are unsure of how to deal with issues of employees not able to make it in to the workplace. We would encourage employers to be as flexible as they can while still being able to run their business or workplace.’