Many business are unprepared for emergency situations such as extreme weather or power outlets which, whilst unlikely, can occur and cause major disruption. Companies should have a contingency plan in place for what action they will carry out when there is an electricity blackout.
Power outages can happen any time during the working day and some can only last for a few hours. In these circumstances, employers should weigh up any information they have received about the likely length of the outage against the impact of health and safety; can the employees work on site without endangering themselves? For example, most modern buildings will have backup emergency lighting so it may be possible to have full lights with no other electricity so that trips, or more serious accidents, can be avoided. This will only be beneficial to the business where the employees can carry out meaningful work without power.
If the power outage is going to last a substantial amount of time, or there is no work for the employees to complete safely, employers may send staff home early. In these circumstances, the employee is generally entitled to receive normal pay for the hours they have missed unless the employer invokes a contractual lay off/short time clause which provides for a reduction in pay when the employer is not able to provide any work for his staff to do.
Also, where a lack of electricity means that the business will not open at all, employees can be placed on temporary lay-off where there is a contractual clause entitling the employer to do so. Lay-off can be used where there is at least one working day without work and the contractual clause may entitle this time to be unpaid or on reduced pay, though entitlement to statutory guarantee pay may arise here. If there are no lay-off clauses within the contract, employers will be required to pay their staff for any hours they would have worked had the workplace been open for this to occur.
There is an option, rather than invoking unpaid lay-off clauses, that employees will agree to take annual leave to cover any hours lost due to a complete closure. If not, there may be options available such as temporary home working, paying time off in lieu or allowing flexi time so the employee covers their absence at a later time and will still be paid.
If you need any further clarification please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.