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The winter season often coincides with severe weather conditions, which can lead to travel disruption and, ultimately staff shortages. Moreover, as winter brings seasonal celebrations, many workers are often rushing to book their annual leave as well.

The weather is severe and unpredictable, and your employee cannot get to work. Perhaps your employee has children, and their school has been cancelled due to the bad weather. This means that the employee may need to stay at home to look after their children or be provided with enough time to arrange emergency childcare. Alternatively, their train has been cancelled, and there is no way for them to get to work.

It is a frequent problem during this season, but how many employers plan for this kind of disruption? The trick is to have a clear strategy in place, which helps to avoid confusion about what to do if there are any problems and ensure that you communicate these policies to the staff in advance of the harsh weather season.

Employees are not entitled to get paid if they are unable to get to work because of bad weather.

There is no legal right to pay an employee because of travel delays, as travelling to work constitutes working time, and an employee should make reasonable efforts to get to work. However, if their method of transport is cancelled or delayed, it is essential that you try to be as flexible as possible and consider allowing employees alternative ways to ensure they can work, even in severe weather conditions.

Here are some options that you can implement to your written policy right now:

Allow employees to work remotely from home

The opportunity to work from home is becoming more feasible these days due to technological devices that can be hooked up to the central work server. Issuing your employee with a work laptop or Blackberry will mean that they can work the required hours that day without losing any of their working time to unreliable transport. Please bear in mind that you are still responsible for issues such as insurance, health, safety, and security, no matter where your employee works.

Allow for more flexible working hours

Commuting to work is part of many employees’ lives, and travel disruptions, unfortunately, are a common occurrence. Provided the employee has made every effort to arrive at work on time, then it may be pertinent to consider making alternative transport arrangements or offer more suitable working hours to ensure the business continues to run as efficiently as possible. If the employee cannot get to work because of travelling during peak hours, then perhaps it would be better they arrive at work an hour later, to miss the rush hour.

What can you do if an employee is still struggling to get to work on time or at all?

If an employee turns up late to work or is unable to get to work at all because of adverse weather or disruptions to public transport, then, on the face of it, you are entitled to treat this absence in the same way as you would any unauthorised absence. However, as an employer, you would need to consider the personal circumstances of each employee. Perhaps, they live some distance away in a more rural location, or they have children that are off school due to adverse weather conditions. Remember that the employee is entitled to time off to take care for them. Strictly speaking, this time off is unpaid, but you can adopt another fairer approach, as long as it is consistent and in line with your policies.

You, ultimately, have a duty of care towards the health and safety of your employees and they should not be required to make unreasonable and potentially hazardous journeys to work. So, it is essential to exercise your discretion well and hold off on threatening disciplinary sanctions if your employee is genuinely struggling to get to work.

What can you do if your employee abuses your policy?

If you think that your employee is abusing your policy, then you could introduce your disciplinary sanctions to counteract this. For example, if an employee has failed to make any effort to attend work, even when you have offered alternative methods as above, then you can start the disciplinary process and ensure that the employee understands the rules set out in your policy due to harsh weather.

It is essential to consider taking a more lenient approach and investigate the employee’s reasons for non-attendance or late arrival before you stop his or her pay. Moreover, treat all employees consistently, so they understand the policies around harsh weather conditions, and you avoid the risk of any discrimination claims. Allow your employees to take reasonable time off to make childcare arrangements if the need arises. Your obligation to your employee is to ensure their health, safety and welfare are protected during this time.

The best viable option of ensuring you are not caught out by employee absence or lateness is to implement a Bad Weather Policy so that employees understand what is expected of them and what the ramifications are if they are unable to attend work due to adverse weather conditions. Simplify ER can discuss and create a written policy for you to ensure you are protected from employee absence/lateness in the future. If you are interested in learning more, call us now on 020 3011 0448 or email us at info@simplifyer.co.uk.

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