December 1, 2015

Top tips for managing absence during bad weather

Winter is here and it could be colder and snowier than normal.

Advanced weather models are predicting months of heavy snowfall, with conditions expecting to mirror those of winter 2009 / 2010 which was so long and chilly it was dubbed “the Big Freeze”.

Staff absences tend to raise dramatically during extreme weather as road and rail disruption, combined with school closures make it difficult for employees to make it in to work.

Effective absence management and flexible working options can help maintain staff productivity and reduce the cost to businesses.

Here are our top tips to reduce the impact it has on your business…

1. Let employees know what is expected of them

If you do not have an adverse weather policy or procedure in place now is the time to develop one.

Having clear plans in place will help you prepare for ay possible difficulties and it will also inform your employees of what is expected form them in these situations.

The legislation

Employers and employees alike are often unclear about what they are legal obliged to do if adverse weather prevents employees from attending work. There isn’t any specific legislation that covers adverse weather. Therefore, the normal legislation applies.

  • Employees are responsible for getting themselves to work and should make every effort to attend as normally.
  • They are not entitled to be paid if they do not make it in to work.
  • If the employee arrives at work late, they are not entitled to be paid for the time not worked.

2. Be flexible where possible

Be as flexible as possible. Deducting pay could have a long term impact on productivity and employee morale. Offering the following alternatives is likely to be much more effective.

  • Arrange for employees work from home or at an alternative office/site if possible.
  • Consider altering working times in agreement with employees wherever this is possible
  • Allow employees to take any outstanding lieu time or flexi-time if available
  • Allow employees to take the time off as holiday, if available, (although remember that employers cannot require employees to take holiday entitlement at short notice)

3. Be fair

You will expect employees to turn up for work by whatever reasonable means is available to them.  However, this must be at their own discretion, dependent on the weather conditions in their own area, the availability of transport and without added risk to their own personal safety.

Employees who live within a close distance of their workplace can be expected to attend for work wherever it is possible for them to walk. Whether or not this will be possible is a matter for consideration between the employer and the employee.

Things you will need to consider in this situation are as follows:

  • the distance involved to get from the employee’s home to the workplace
  • the weather conditions
  • the time of day
  • the general health of the employee

4. Be Consistent

Ensure you treat all employees the same to avoid any claims of discrimination. Female employees are likely to show that adverse weather impacts them more than their male counterparts as they have primary caring responsibility for children and/or dependents.

Ensure you take this into consideration especially if you decided to deduct pay for time absence.

5. Prepare for school closures

In the event of unexpected school closures, parents are entitled to take dependants leave to find alterative childcare arrangements. Employees are not entitled to be paid for such leave.

What if you believe employees are falsely blaming the weather?

If you feel that an employee is using the bad weather as an excuse to come to work late or not come, this should be dealt with through your disciplinary procedure.

Further Advice and Support

If you would like to develop an adverse weather policy or would like any specific advice on managing employees during adverse weather Conditions please contact us or call 0844 391 1921.

By Gillian Smith

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