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Managing Staff Absence Due to Adverse Weather
The clocks have tuned back and both Winter and Christmas are just around the corner, and it won't be long before winter arrives. With winter comes winter weather and the traffic and travel chaos that ensues, causing many Employers to feel the full impact that winter weather induced absence triggers.
The impact poor weather may have on Employers will be determined by the decisions they make, many of which may be based on issues completely out of their control, but those decisions and the way the issues they create are handled, will ultimately determine the full HR implications.
What if an Employer decides to close the business temporarily due to poor weather conditions? Do staff still need to be paid?
What if an Employer does open for business but staff can't make it in because of the weather? Is this unauthorised absence? Should absent staff be paid?
What if some staff make it in but other staff from the same area don't, should they face disciplinary action?
Employer Initiated Closures
If an Employer decides to temporarily close their business due to extreme weather conditions they are effectively laying-off their staff, albeit temporarily. However, unless there is a contractual right to lay employees off without pay, or employees expressly consent to being laid off without pay, Employers are obliged to pay staff their normal pay for the duration of the lay-off.
Employee Initiated Absence
Employees are protected by a number of statutory rights, some of which may apply in instances of extreme weather where schools or childcare facilities are themselves suspended due to poor weather.
Employers should start with a full review of existing HR policies. Do you have an absence policy? Does it include an 'adverse weather policy'?
Having such a policy can help provide clarity when unpredictable weather causes challenges and can confirm what the company's expectations are in terms of absence, what options are available to staff (eg. parental leave) and what the company's pay arrangements in will be in these circumstances.
Employees have a right to time off for dependants and could invoke this right if schools or childcare provisions are cancelled due to adverse weather. Equally, qualifying parents have the right to take unpaid time off work to look after their children or make arrangements for their welfare.
Effective staff absence and absence management polices as part of a thorough employee handbook containing critical HR policies is essential in acting as a point of reference when issues arise and can help make life less difficult and costly for Employers.
At EmployEasily Legal Services we specialise is protecting businesses and helping them prevent problems by providing them with legally compliant contracts of employment and comprehensive Employee Handbooks tailored to meet their specific requirements.