Freak weather conditions: What it means for employers

Peninsula Team

December 14 2015

Once again, the country has been hit by freak weather conditions and floods have affected large areas particularly in the North East of England. Due to the severity of the floods, some buildings have been heavily damaged. In addition, many transport options have been affected, not least with the closure of the Forth Bridge in east central Scotland. The effect of damaged buildings and closed transport networks are wide ranging, and can cause headaches for employers and employees alike. Most significantly, businesses may have to be temporarily closed; or where businesses remain open, employees may not be able to get to work. So what are employers’ rights in these conditions? Employer has had to temporarily close the business Unless you have a contractual right to place employees on unpaid lay off (check your contracts), your staff are entitled to be paid in full for any hours they would have worked had the workplace been open. Having a well drafted ‘lay off clause’ (express or implied) allows you to reduce pay to statutory guarantee pay (SGP) only, which is payable for a maximum of a working week per 3 month period. Once SGP entitlement has run out, the employee is paid nothing. Reducing pay to nil without this right will leave you open to a claim of unlawful deductions from pay. Payment for staff who are not in work Employees may be absent during this period because, for example, they cannot get to work because roads are closed; or because they are dealing with floods in their own houses. You do not need to pay staff who cannot make it into work, when the workplace is open for business. This may seem a little harsh because their absence isn’t their fault and employers can consider coming to an agreement about pay during the absence. However, in drastic times like this is, employers may choose to rely on their correct legal position to their benefit. What about my employees who are parents of children whose school is shut? Employees have a right to take time off for dependants when the normal care arrangements for their children break down, while they try to make other arrangements. Therefore, time off for dependants should normally last no more than 2 days per instance and you should agree with the employee how the rest of the time, should they need it, is to be categorised. What alternatives are there to maintain payment of employees?
  • Agreeing annual leave be taken
  • Enforcing annual leave on the employee (with the correct notice periods)
  • Agreeing that the employee takes time off on lieu
  • Agree that the employee works from home (if they have the correct equipment etc)
For further clarification on this issue, please call our Advice Service on 0800 028 2420.    

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