10 February 2016 11:00
How should businesses manage staff absence in extreme weather?
As we battle through a period of extreme weather, Jeremy Harvey Partner and Head of Employment and HR at Coodes Solicitors, outlines the legal issues businesses face when employees are unable, or unwilling, to come in to work.
Many businesses will continue to pay staff members
who miss work because they are unable to travel in, but there is no legal
entitlement to do so. Employers can require employees to take annual leave
or unpaid leave in these circumstances.
It is worth bearing in mind that if an employee tells
you they can’t make it in and you insist they do so, you could be deemed
negligent if they then have an accident on the way to work. If you have a
genuine belief they could make it in and did not then this could be classed as
an unauthorised absence and you would need to follow your usual disciplinary
If staff are absent, it can put pressure on the rest
of the team. What if a staff member works over and above their contracted
hours to cover for those who can’t make it in? If they are on an hourly rate
then they should be paid overtime in accordance with their contractual rates of
pay. If they are salaried then they are not entitled to be paid extra, but
you should consider how you can recognise their commitment.
All businesses should have disaster recovery plans in
place to ensure that key personnel are contactable at all times and make
provision for people who genuinely cannot make it in to work from home. If a
number of people are absent, you may need to use agency staff to fill gaps to
ensure services run as seamlessly as possible.
Ensure you have clear reporting procedures in place. Every
member of staff should know who to call and by what time, if they cannot come
in to work. They should keep you updated if conditions change. Have clear
procedures in place in respect of when you will pay for leave and ensure they
are applied consistently.