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Wind, rain, flooding and your employees

Wind, rain, flooding and your employees
Richard Rowell
Written by
Thursday, 13 February 2014 08:15

The UK is facing an unparalleled weather disruption with winds and floodwaters.

In the face of these horrendous conditions we are being asked by many of our customers should we pay employees who aren’t at work or not.

This is a very difficult question to answer as is no single answer. A number of different ways to tackle this exist based around your contracts of employment and policies. At law there is no statutory right, only a contractual right to pay so you should always is to refer to contracts of employment before taking any action.

If an employment contract is silent on a particular point then you would revert the general consensus is that if the employee attends work then you should pay them. Conversely if they do not attend work then there is no need to pay them.

However, adopting that policy may lead to significant employee relations difficulties with employees blaming the weather as the sole reason for them being unable to attend and therefore being denied any pay. In reality many employers do still pay employees at full pay when absent through inability to attend work through adverse weather conditions. 

This clearly disadvantages the employer. 

Alternatives

A commonly used alternative is to not pay but allow the individual to take the time off as holiday.
In adopting this approach an employees holiday entitlement will reduce ensuring that they are available for work more during future the busy periods, improving attendance and productivity in future periods.
This does come with a health warning over notice periods. If you require employees to take holiday there is a requirement to provide sufficient notice. This is defined as twice as many days as the duration of the leave.

Often, when faced with the option of no pay or taking holiday days, many employees will often agree to take holidays.

Parents absent providing emergency childcare?

A further impact of the weather can be the closure of schools.

This has a knock on effect on the workforce and results in many parents being absent from work to provide childcare. Employees are entitled to emergency time off to look after their dependents but there is no statutory right to payment.

Rights here would again depend on contractual obligations. Again employers often choose to make payment in this scenario even though there is no legal requirement to do so.
What if the Company has no work due to the weather??

This is a slightly different scenario where your employees do report for duty but on arrival there is no actual work for them to undertake (construction is a classic example here) then you should pay them.
In this scenario you as employer are effectively laying employees off temporarily and employees will have the right to full pay.

An employer can be severely disadvantaged here. To afford an employer some protection we strongly recommend that employers look at their employment policies and look to introduce rights to temporarily lay off employees or even allow the employer to instigate short time working at low pay.

Future planning?

A number of lessons can be learned from this and previous weather related problems for employers.

At a practical level consider the work of your employees and can an element be completed from home

The next key point is a review of your contracts of employment to run through the situation when employees cannot attend through weather related disruption.

Finally many employers also introduce specific policies on weather and travel disruption. An example of one provided back in 2010 after heavy snow related disruption can be found here.


If you need any further information we would be happy to give you a call back

 

Richard Rowell

Richard is the managing director of Dataplan Payroll Limited and is also responsible for the ideas and development of Dataplan's innovative technology solutions such as ePaysafe.

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