#BeastfromtheEast – An employment law guide

ArwenMakin_ESPLaw
Senior solicitor
ESP Law
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With the “Beast from the East” hitting the entire country, here is a quick guide for how to deal with the inevitable disruption to your business.

Bad Weather Policy

It is a good idea to have a Bad Weather Policy in place, and to ensure that all employees are aware of what to do if adverse weather strikes.

Any policy should include:

  • Contact arrangements
  • Alternative arrangements
  • What will happen with pay if the employee is unable to work

If the Employee is unable to get into work

If an employee cannot get to work because of bad weather or travel disruption they must inform their employer of this as soon as possible. There is no automatic legal right for an employee to be paid for working time they have missed because of travel disruption or bad weather.

An employer and employee could agree that this time off be taken as annual leave so the employee does not miss out on pay. It is important to note that the employee does not have to agree to this if they do not wish to, unless the correct notice is given by the employer. This must be at least double the length of time of the annual leave period, for example; for 1 day’s annual leave, 2 days’ notice is required. If a longer notice period is set out in the employment contract, this would usually apply.

If the Business cannot operate

If employees are ready, available and willing to work, but the business is closed or hours are reduced due to a decision taken as the employer, employees should generally still be paid. Some contracts and workplace policies will say what employees need to do in special circumstances like these. This might include things like working at the nearest accessible workplace, doing other duties or working from home. Similarly, if employer-provided transport is cancelled because of bad weather or travel disruption, and an employee was otherwise ready, willing and available to work, the employee should generally be paid for any working time they have missed.

Some contracts may allow employers to 'lay off' some staff without pay. However, it must be completely clear how the circumstances apply and anyone with employee status will usually have a right to a statutory guarantee payment.

Different employers will have different business needs during travel disruption and bad weather. What is important is that you should be flexible, fair and consistent.

Alternative options to consider are as follows:

  • Allow workers to come in a little later than usual if the travel disruption or weather is expected to improve
  • Use flexible working to let workers make up any lost working time
  • Offer workers who can get in to work the chance to swap shifts or work overtime
  • Use homeworking for a temporary period
  • Switch to duties that can still be carried out
  • Agree for workers to take time off as paid annual leave

Emergency situations involving dependants

In an emergency situation involving a dependent, anyone with employee status has the right to take unpaid time off.

Situations could include:

  • School is closed and a worker cannot leave their child
  • Caring arrangements for a disabled relative are cancelled
  • A partner is seriously injured as a result of bad weather

An employee should talk to their employer as soon as they know that they may need to take time off, explaining:

  • Exactly what the issue is
  • The likely length of the absence
  • That they are taking the time off to look after dependants

Other issues to consider in extreme cold weather

Employers should also consider relaxing their dress code to enable staff to wear warmer clothing, allowing extra breaks to make hot drinks, and bringing in extra heating options such as portable heaters. An employer should take extra care for vulnerable workers, such as pregnant workers. If a risk cannot be avoided or removed some workers may have to be sent home to protect their health, usually on full pay.

To find out how you can access our 'Severe Weather and Travel Disruption Policy' on our online HR resources portal or to get access to our specialist employment lawyers under a fixed subscription cost, get in touch today.

About ArwenMakin_ESPLaw

Arwen Makin

After studying law at Cambridge University, I trained at leading national law firm Mills & Reeve, qualifying into their employment team in 2002. I have extensive employment law experience, gained through advising both employers and employees on a wide range of issues, across an array of sectors – including but not limited to finance, education, hospitality, transport and retail. This diverse experience means I am ideally placed to provide advice in relation to professional conduct and regulatory matters.

I am now a senior solicitor at ESP Law, part of ESP Group – a very different employment law firm and HR consultancy business, with our own in-house legal and HR experts. Taking pride in our reputation for delivering sensible, straight-talking and practical advice – at the same time as being approachable and supportive – I am passionate about the way ESP works with its customers. By building on trusted relationships and providing prompt support at the earliest stage of any issue, we help ensure that sound commercial decisions are taken.

The vision for our business was to deliver an exceptionally personal, yet cost-effective service that truly meets the evolving needs of modern and forward-thinking HR teams and their organisations. I’m lucky to be among a team of very talented employment lawyers who work hard day in, day out, to make this vision a reality.

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