The start of 2016 has seen adverse weather strike again. Not snow this time but rather unusually for this time of year significant amounts of rain and wind causing widespread flooding – particularly across Lancashire and Yorkshire.

This adverse weather has caused serious devastation to homes, communities and businesses.

Naturally this impacts on both employees and employers.

We have seen employers require legal advice on the HR and employment issues arising from business closure whilst everyone seeks to “get back to normal.” Some requests for advice have included whether they have to provide alternative work and/or pay staff during these temporary periods and what happens should employers find it difficult to afford this, especially whilst waiting for insurance funds to come through.

The position is that employees are entitled to be paid if they are ready and willing to attend work pursuant to their employment contract, even if the employer is unable to provide work due to flooding.

Temporary measures such as lay-off and short time working can be utilised where you can send the employee home and not provide them with any work so they are denied the opportunity to earn their normal wages for a temporary period. Short time working is where there is reduction in the work provided such that the normal pay for any week is less than half a week’s normal pay.

There are however legalities and processes that have to be adopted when dealing with both of these measures and we recommend you take advice to avoid employment disputes and claims to add to your woes.

We have also seen enquiries associated with staff absences for time off to clear out and repair properties etc.

Unless an employee’s contract of employment stipulates specifically in relation to the deduction of pay for days that they are unable to attend the office, non-payment could be considered an unlawful breach of the employment contract.

Employers need to be clear and consistent about their policy regarding staff absences due to adverse weather and its effects.

Another option might be to allow employees to use the annual holiday entitlement for days that they cannot attend work. However, this needs to be agreed by both the employee and employer.

More and more businesses are now implementing an Adverse Weather and Travel Disruption Policy and this should be given serious consideration by employers.

If you require advice or assistance with Employment law and HR strategy on how best to ensure business continuity and resilience during adverse weather; assistance with varying employment contracts and/or drafting and implementing an Adverse Weather and Travel Disruption Policy please contact our Employment law and HR team here.

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