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Adverse weather and employees’ rights

Employment Law & HR

Winter is truly upon us again and while people are putting on the extra layers to counteract the adverse weather, they are also struggling with getting to work.

Employee absence can be difficult while you’re trying to run a business; however you need to be mindful about health and safety and any risks this might cause to your employees’. It is the responsibility of an employee to get themselves to work, so they have no automatic right to be paid if they don’t turn up, unless their contract specifies otherwise.

There are also complications if your employees’ are allowed to work from home sometimes. This could be beneficial if you allow this type of working method. If not there could be confusion if an employee does work at home and expects to be paid for it. On the other hand, allowing remote working allows employees’ still to be paid and allows employers’ to keep up with their work. It would be best practice for an employer to make clear at an earlier stage whether working from home is an option.

There is also the option to allow staff to take annual leave on these days, and this should be accommodated unless it can be justified. An employee cannot be forced to take annual leave on these days. Paying annual leave on such days could benefit everyone however, as the employee is being paid and the employer isn’t paying the annual leave at a later date.

Employers’ need to also be aware of employees’ who have dependant caring responsibilities. With school closures and the potential for winter bugs there is always a risk employees’ may have to take emergency time off to look after these dependants. ‘Reasonable time off’ in these cases is permitted, and it is unpaid (unless the contract varies this).

Most importantly employers’ need to be consistent with their approach to employees’ and they should endeavour to make sure their policies are communicated to everyone. Perhaps if you don’t have an Adverse Weather Policy now is the time to think about it!

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