The HR Place

Managing absence in INCLEMENT WEATHER

A few years ago, I had just started an exciting new job when the worst snowfall in 30 years hit Hampshire’s roads. “SNOW DAY!” announced my social network, everyone clearly excited at the prospect of being unable to attend work and duty-bound to build snowmen instead.  But there was no way I could not turn up on my first day, so I nervously hit the road – all 35 miles of it.

It’s difficult for employees to know what to do when the Met Office tells us to avoid “all but essential” travel, employers probably consider their attendance essential, and their friends and family are advising against making the trek.

It’s also hard for employers to know how to handle a high level of staff absence on a given day, and how to keep the business running.   

With the threat of a decent amount of snow (yes, even down South!), it’s time to make sure your employees are aware of expectations and what to do if adverse weather affects their attendance at work.

In brief, this is what employers should be aware of when faced with a situation in which staff are unable to attend work due to bad weather conditions.

Are employees entitled to receive pay if they are unable to attend work due to weather conditions?

Employers are within their rights to refuse to pay an employee who cannot make it into work due to the adverse weather conditions. However, it’s always important to consider your duty of care as an employer, and of course, employees’ engagement and motivation which could be adversely affected by an impact on their pay in this situation.

You could consider asking individuals to take time off as annual leave or making up the time at a later date or allowing ‘working from home’ where employees’ jobs allow it and if they have the necessary tools to do so. Any policy needs to be applied consistently and clearly communicated to all employees.

How flexible should employers be?

Employees should feel entitled to make their own risk assessment when considering the feasibility of their journey to work. The CIPD recommends “a common-sense approach”, allowing flexibility in cases where travel could be dangerous. Flexible practices undoubtedly contribute to a more motivated and productive workforce.

Options can include:

  • Granting annual leave
  • Employees working from home
  • Employees working from a different office location nearer to the employee’s home
  • Paying a full day’s pay to employees who make the effort to attend work, even if they are late.

What about staff who cannot attend for childcare reasons in the event of school closures?

Employees are allowed to take unpaid leave to care for any dependants in an emergency, and this will apply in the event of adverse weather. Whether or not urgent parental leave is paid or unpaid will depend on what is set out in your existing policies and procedures.

What should I put in place to make it easier to manage absence in adverse weather?

  • Clear general absence procedures so that employees know who to contact, how and when, if they are unable to attend for work.
  • A clear inclement weather policy which is regularly reviewed and accessible to all staff.
  • Advising staff as soon as possible of what will happen regarding their pay if they cannot attend.
  • Consider under which circumstances you would make a decision to send employees home on health and safety grounds, and the impact on pay.
  • Ensuring that in all instances you are following your contractual obligations but also considering the health and safety of your staff.

Contact us if you need support with managing absence or with content or review of your inclement weather policy!

References: ACAS, CIPD, Personnel Today.