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Preparing for adverse weather

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Train delays, roadworks, accidents on route - just some of the issues affecting our current journeys into work. Now with ‘Arctic blizzards’ on the horizon, there is yet more frustration to come for commuters (and their employers!)

Recently, we at Outset, have seen more and more issues raised by managers seeking advice, stating that travel disruption and bad weather has prevented their staff from either getting to work or being on time and asking how best they can manage this.

We ask our expert Senior HR consultant Kevin Nolan what managers can do to prepare for these unfortunate situations and what the potential legal obligations are:

Communication is key

“It’s important to prepare for any potential disruption (especially severe weather) either by having a known policy in place or informing staff clearly of the steps they must take if they are unable to get to work on time. If a worker can’t get to work because of bad weather or travel disruption they must inform their employer of this and the likely length of absence as soon as possible – normally explained in their own attendance policy.

Luckily advancements in technology can prove a real asset to help in managing unforeseen disruptions by keeping employers and staff informed of events and disruptions, enabling remote working, and permitting flexibility of communications when away from the normal workplace environment.”

Remain consistent and fair

“There is no obligation to pay employees that fail to turn up for work, even if it’s out of his or her control - unless of course it’s included in their contract. However, if an employee has a good attendance record, has made ‘best effort’ to get into work (while remaining safe!) and has kept the company informed of the issue - the working relationship can often be damaged irreparably by a perceived ‘hard line’ approach from managers who appear to penalise staff through no fault of their own.  This affects employee engagement, motivation and trust of not just the individual but often other team members.  So a pragmatic and fair approach is best used in such circumstances.”

“It’s important to be seen to be to be acting consistently in how you respond to such unforeseen attendance issues -  especially regarding any pay and subsequent actions -  no matter what the role or seniority otherwise it can start to undermine your whole process and lead to potential claims of unfairness or discrimination.”

Remain flexible

“Businesses and managers themselves need to remain flexible and quickly adapt to changing working arrangements or, in worst case, even consider closing workplaces. If you choose to fully or partly to close the business, or reduce office hours, employees will normally be entitled to their pay (unless there are lay off terms applied!). Similarly, if employer provided transport is cancelled because of bad weather or travel disruption, and a worker was otherwise ready, willing and available to carry out work, the worker should still be paid for any working time they have missed.”

Show caution where necessary

“Some businesses may find a minority of staff attempting to take advantage of a situation such as travel disruption by not even attempting to get to work or avoiding going in at all.  An initial appraisal of the circumstances should therefore always be conducted by the manager in order to ascertain the facts and to determine what, if any, action may be required. Requesting an employee to agree to take the time as paid annual leave may be an option to be considered.”

If you’d like any more advice about this or wish to discuss other employment relations issues, please contact Outset on 01622 759 900.