In 2010, for the third successive winter, Britain was brought to a standstill due to adverse weather conditions. The Federation of Small Businesses reported an estimated 20%, or 6.4 million people, of the UK’s working population did not make it to work during the last cold snap, costing businesses in excess of £1 billion.
But do you have to pay staff who are absent due to the bad weather?
And what policies should your business have in place to help tackle the issue this year and into the future?
According to Rob Tice, head of employment at Derby-based solicitors Flint Bishop, many businesses are still struggling with the tricky decision over whether to pay staff who are absent from work through dangerous road conditions or school closures.
“Despite last year’s problems, few employers have amended their contracts of employment to take into account this scenario, which is occurring more and more often.
“Although conditions have been treacherous and many people have legitimately been unable to make it to work unless it is stipulated in their contract, employers are not obliged to pay their staff.
“As a general rule, if a place of work is open for business, then employers do not have to pay those employees who do not attend work due to travel difficulties or child care issues. However, if an employer makes the decision to close the business due to the weather, employees will usually be entitled to receive full pay unless the contract contains a temporary lay off clause.
“My advice would always be to put a formal adverse weather policy in place, so that employees will be aware of whether or not they will be paid if they are absent due to a ‘snow day’. This will avoid any resentment from those employees who did make it into work when others didn’t.
“In all cases, however, you should also consider balancing your legal obligations to staff, with encouraging good working relations, morale and maintaining health and safety.”
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