Paid to stay at home?

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It is said that the current bout of bad weather is costing the UK economy 1.2 billion a day. As there's no thaw imminent, it's worth revisiting the question of whether to pay or not to pay when employees don't turn up for work. There are pros and cons.

On the one hand the CIPD's Employee Relations Adviser Mike Emmott, suggested that while employers are entitled not to pay employees who fail to show up for work, he strongly advised that they do so. His view is that a failure to pay would undermine trust. Brendan Barber TUC General Secretary agreed, saying: "In many parts of the country the advice from the police is not to travel unless journeys are absolutely necessary. And given that the adverse weather conditions are causing huge delays across the road and transport networks, it would be very unfair if an employer decided to dock pay from staff who failed to make it in because of the snow."

That's all very well, but many employers are struggling to cope economically and would consider Mr Emmott's remark to be unrealistic, unhelpful and quite frankly out of touch with economic reality.

That said, employers have a duty to take reasonable care of their employees' safety. That might extend to encouraging employees to travel in bad weather. Although a company would not normally bear responsibility for its employees when traveling to and from work, in recent times the courts have been increasingly willing to find an employer liable for the acts of its employees taking place outside working hours where the act is either closely connected with what the employer sanctioned or required in the performance of the employee's employment.

An adverse weather policy can help to clarify matters. The sort of things to make provision for would be:

Is it necessary for employees to attend for work or can you make temporary alternative arrangements?

1. Employees who are absent from work because of difficult weather conditions are not entitled to be paid, but try to be flexible. For example, you could consider allowing them to work from home, take holiday, or pay them for lost days with an agreement to make up the hours later.

2. Always investigate the reasons for an employee's absence before making a decision about deducting pay.

3. Treat employees consistently to avoid complaints of discrimination.

4. Allow employees to take reasonable time off to make arrangements for childcare if schools or nurseries are closed due to severe weather.

5. Open communication, clarity and consideration will go a long way towards overcoming potential problems, and keeping the business running until the weather warms up a bit.

If you need guidance on putting an inclement weather policy together, employment law training or advice on HR matters, give us a call. Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in the practical application of employment law as well as providing employment law training and HR support services. For more information, visit our website at http://www.russellhrconsulting.co.uk or call a member of the team on 0845 644 8955.

Russell HR Consulting offers HR services to businesses nationwide, including Buckinghamshire (covering Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Banbury, Northampton, Towcester and surrounding areas), Nottinghamshire (covering Chesterfield, Mansfield, Nottingham, Sheffield, Worksop and surrounding areas) and Hampshire (covering Aldershot, Basingstoke, Reading, Farnborough, Fareham, Portsmouth, Southampton and surrounding areas).
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