Adverse weather has already hit our shores but what are employee’s rights when they’re snowed in? Read on for some tips and advice:
Firstly, employees should make every sensible effort to attend work and perhaps consider using public transport if it is operating. It is important that you ask them to telephone their line manager/supervisor as soon as they realise they may be late or may be unable to attend work due to the poor weather. It is the responsibility of the employee to get to work.
Payment - There is no legal right for employees to be paid for travel delays due to bad weather conditions (unless the travel itself is constituted as working time or in some situations where the transport is provided by the employer). If they don’t show up for work, you are under no obligation to pay them.
If, however, you decide to temporarily close your business due to extreme weather conditions effectively staff are being laid-off, albeit temporarily, and you would then be obliged to pay staff their normal pay for the duration of the lay-off unless they express consent to being laid off without pay.
Where possible, employers should try and be flexible and allow staff to either make up their hours if they’re late to work or consider allowing those who can, to work from home.
Another option if adverse weather persists is for staff to be able to use annual leave to cover their absence from work. Any such requests to use annual leave in this way will have to be authorised in the usual way.
Disruption to care for dependants - Staff may have a statutory right to time off work to care for dependants because of the “unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant” which could cover the closure of schools and nurseries. If staff need to take unpaid time off work to look after children or make arrangements for their welfare they should discuss this with their supervisor as soon as possible.
Health and Safety Considerations - Employers have a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work. Employers should conduct risk assessments of their workplaces to deal with the issues caused by extreme weather conditions.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 sets out the requirements in relation to the temperature of workplaces. The Approved Code of Practice which accompanies the Regulations suggests that the temperature in workplaces should be at least 16 degrees Celsius, unless much of the work involves severe physical effort in which case the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. There is no maximum temperature specified in the Approved Code of Practice, but employers should follow the requirements of the Regulations that “the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”.
The safety of employees who spend large amounts of time driving in company vehicles must also be considered in adverse weather. Staff who become stranded away from home or away from any of the employers’ premises, and for example, need to check into a hotel if it is dangerous for them to continue their journey because of tiredness and the prevailing conditions will have any out-of-pocket expenses reimbursed subject to the production of receipts.
Consider wide spread use of publishing warnings from the Met Office and the Highways England via social media and email to your staff and carry out a risk assessment to assess the importance of the journey to ensure both vehicle and driver safety, and whether the travel is absolutely necessary.
Leaving work early - Where adverse weather conditions arise during the working day, employees should be released only where there is evidence that they will encounter difficulty in reaching their home. Weather information, where the employee lives and their mode of travel should all be taken into account.
Information Sources - The following sources are recommended for employees seeking travel information.
- Local radio stations: Kingdom FM (95.2 – 96.1 FM), Tay FM (96.4FM Perth; elsewhere 102.8 FM)
- You can receive information about road closures, road updates and service disruptions straight to your phone or inbox – go to Met Office, Roadworks.org, Highways England, or Traffic Scotland
- You can also sign up for updates on Facebook/Twitter - Met Office or @metoffice, Highways England or @HighwaysEngland, Traffic Scotland or @trafficscotland
- You can also get general information about winter safety and winter driving at www.rospa.com/wintersafety
Staff Do’s and Don’ts:
Use common sense
Try and get to work if you can
Pay attention to traffic reports
Think of your safety
Ask your manager to make the decision for you
Finally, it is worth revisiting your employment contract to make sure you are aware of the company procedure.
Take care this winter!