Britain is bracing itself for a cold winter – with the Met Office warning of bad weather as early as the second part of this week.
And businesses should be planning ahead to avoid potential conflict with staff when the snow forces people to take time off, according to West Midlands employment lawyer Sarah Pugh.
Sarah, a partner at Dudley based employment specialists W.H. Law, says companies should set out their “snow day” policies clearly to staff to avoid unrest developing.
“It is not just the roads that can be tricky to negotiate when there is snow and ice about,” she said. “Companies face questions such as should staff be paid for snow days and can parents take time off if their children’s school is closed.
“Here at W.H. Law, we suggest that companies set out their policies to staff clearly in advance to avoid problems down the line.”
Advice from W.H. Law:
If the employer closes the business, employees will be entitled to receive full pay, unless their employment contracts contain a clause allowing them to be laid off without pay.
However, where the business remains open, unless the employment contract provides for paid time off in bad weather, the employer only has to pay employees who are willing and able to do work. If an employee fails to get to work, the employer is under no legal obligation to pay them.
Companies should, however, consider the possible negative impact of their policy on staff.
For example, would it be fair to penalise staff where the official advice is not to travel?
And, it may be time to consider allowing a more flexible approach with staff being allowed to work from home where possible.
All staff have a right to take unpaid leave to care for their children. If a school shuts, for whatever reason, parents should be given a reasonable amount of time off to find a solution – i.e. arrange alternative child care.
Where employers decide to pay staff who were not able to get to work due to bad weather, it should be made clear that this payment is “discretionary due to exceptional circumstances.
For further information contact Sarah Pugh or Mike Rogers at W.H. Law on 01384 216920.
Notes to Editors: W.H. Law specialises in Workplace and Health and Safety law, providing a holistic service to businesses, focusing primarily on the assessment and management of the risks involved in employing people within a business and providing assistance with litigation where necessary. A training service is available for managers and personnel officers. Further information can be found on-line at: http://www.whlawllp.co.uk/index.htm