The bad weather of recent months has brought more than just frosty windscreens and higher heating bills. With staff arriving later than usual, potential early closures to allow staff to travel home safely, and staff sometimes being unable to make it into the office at all due to lack of public transport or dangerous driving conditions, the accumulated loss of labour hours has a substantial impact on businesses.
The fact is that snowy and icy conditions can incur heavy costs in staff absences. Estimates of the cost to the economy vary, but if between 10% and 20% of the UK workforce have been affected by the recent weather, it will cost the economy up to £1 billion per day and there have been warnings of more bad weather to come
What Should Employers Do?
If employees cannot make it into work due to the conditions, it could be possible for employers to deduct pay. However, in most cases, this is unlikely to be the most appropriate course of action.
Unless an employee’s contract of employment stipulates the situation regarding deduction of pay for days that they are unable to attend the office, any non-payment for ‘snow days’ could be considered an unlawful breach of employment contract.
Importantly, employers also have a duty of care to their employees and, should employees be forced to travel into work in dangerous conditions (or elsewhere on work related businesses) under the threat of pay being deducted, it is possible that employers could be considered in breach of that duty of care.
Employers need to be clear and consistent about their policy regarding staff absences due to poor weather conditions. This should include guidelines regarding working from home and/or flexible working hours during periods of bad weather.
Another option might be to allow employees to use the annual holiday entitlement for days that they cannot attend work but this will need to be agreed by both the employee and employer.
Ultimately, employers need to be sensible and pragmatic; it is most probably the case that employees are as frustrated by the snow as their employers!
If your business is considering a poor weather conditions policy or would like an audit done on your staff contracts to ensure they cover the necessary information regarding adverse weather procedures, get in touch with Farleys’ employment law solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or email us today.