Bad Weather Ahead?

As we are all aware, Christmas is not far away, and while we may all still be enjoying decent temperatures at present, it is predicted that temperatures will fall dramatically in December. This always causes issues for employers as to how to deal with the absence of staff in these conditions.

Absence from work is paid where it is deemed to be pre booked holiday, or authorised sickness. If your business is open and operational then all employees are expected to come into work. Anyone who fails to come in due to travel disruptions, or having to stay at home because children have been sent home from school will not have the right to demand payment for these days.

It is therefore clear that employees understand this prior to the cold weather setting in, so not to cause issue when the time comes.

If the business is unable to open due to no heating, no electricity, no water etc, then employers must pay employees for the dayís work, as it is not their fault the workplace is not operational that day.  Further notice should be taken if the workplace is to remain closed due not having heating or running water as this is a health and safety issue.

Employers can make discretionary payments if they wish, however they are not obligated to. You may ask employees to take the day as part of their holiday entitlement (however this canít be forced), so they do not lose out on pay, or pay them for the day, marking that the employee owes you x numbers of labour, which can be made up over time.

Employers have the discretion here to be as flexible as they wish to be. We advise that some semblance of a policy is issued out to staff now to avoid any confusion.

If employees are simply later into work then you can either doc payment of that time or ask them to make it up another time.

Employers will need to be flexible with requests to leave work early, especially if employees live some distance from the workplace, or have to leave suddenly due to midday school closures.

Keep record of what requests you grant and the hours which are owed to you, and insure once the weather improves you recoup what you are owed. This might be more beneficial after Christmas than arguing with employees over leaving early, as you must be mindful to balance their rights to flexible terms of working as well.

To surmise,
a. Put all expectations in writing and distribute to the staff
b. Be flexible where possible, it will pay off at a later date
c. Record everything that is agreed, including hours employees will owe you
d. Communicate with the staff, ask them to communicate with you as much as possible.

Published: 02 Dec 2011


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