What can employers do now to prevent winter weather problems?

Peninsula Team

August 22 2014

Although we are still hoping for some nice weather before summer officially ends, perhaps now is the best time to make sure that your business has practices in place which regulate the employee problems that winter weather can bring. Planning ahead will stop confusion and disagreements occurring at a later date and ensure that both parties can satisfy their requirements. A bad weather policy will solve problems by laying down what the business expects employees to do during winter. An example of this could be an ‘adverse weather’ or a ‘journey to work’ policy. These need to outline what expectations and steps the business requires the employer to take to make it in to work and would also need to contain what would happen if staff cannot make the journey, such as non-entitlement to pay, discretionary payments or the offer to cover the absence with annual leave. These policies can also cover what would happen where it is the employer’s fault that the employee cannot attend work. In this circumstance it is likely employees will be paid but stating this within a bad weather policy will enable employees to be clear on their position when they are willing to work but are unable to so. Some circumstances may lead to employers implement a lay off or short time working clause that they have in their contracts. These can apply in circumstances where there is a temporary shortage of work, for example, winter weather conditions.  If a lay off clause is not already contained within employment contracts then negotiations with employees can be carried out to implement these by mutual agreement before the bad weather takes hold. A lay off clause will typically state that the employer reserves the right not to pay employees when there is a temporary shortage of work and they can provide no work (lay off), or must decrease the employee’s working hours (short time working), except for statutory guarantee pay (SGP). SGP is the minimum amount of pay, set by the Government, that an employee must receive per day during lay off or short time working. Employees are entitled to reasonable ‘time off for dependants’ in emergency situations and sometimes this will be engaged during extreme weather conditions e.g. where schools are closed and an employee needs to make arrangements for childcare. The right to this time is ‘reasonable’ so may vary from employee to employee, but, again if conditions such as pay or using holiday to cover this time off is stated within winter weather guidelines then it clarifies the employer’s obligations to the employees.    If you need any clarification on this issue then contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772

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