Weathering the storm - Tips for dealing with today’s travel disruption

October 28, 2013

Today’s storm has resulted in roads being blocked, trains delayed and general travel chaos for commuters. What are employers’ options for dealing with those employees who can’t make it to the office?

Employees are only entitled to be paid for work they have done, so if an employee can’t make it into work you are not obliged to pay them. Any days lost due to adverse weather can be classed as unpaid leave or pay can be deducted as appropriate. However, because the travel disruption is outside of your employees’ control, refusing to pay employees may cause employee-relations issues. Employers can use their discretion to provide paid leave, or consider whether there one or more of these alternatives is preferable.

 
  1. Classifying absence as holiday – you could agree with your employees that they will take the time off as holiday leave, provided they have sufficient accrued but untaken leave remaining.

     
  2. Making up the hours - employees who do not want to take annual leave or unpaid leave could be asked to make up the lost hours on other days. If there is a flexi-time scheme in place, it may already envisage this type of solution. Even where there is no such scheme, you could reach an agreement with each individual employee about the time they need to make up.

     
  3. Working from home - if the type of work carried out by your employees could be done from home, it would be reasonable to expect them to do that if they have the necessary facilities available to them. An existing “home working” policy might explain which employees this would apply to and what facilities they would need. 

     
  4. Closing the workplace – if you decide to close a workplace, you may be able to send employees to another location or ask them to work from home. Should this be impracticable, any salaried employees with contractually agreed hours will still have to be paid for the time during which the workplace is closed if they would otherwise be ready and willing to work.

     
  5. Consistency counts – whichever approach you decide to take, treating employees consistently is the key to getting the best reaction from your staff, so keep this in mind when taking decisions regarding pay or other arrangements. By being more flexible and not just deducting pay, it is more likely that you will motivate staff and make up for lost time. Finally, don’t forget to recognise the efforts of those who do show-up, particularly if you have decided to provide paid leave to those who didn’t make it in.

To make life easier the next time the weather affects employees’ ability to attend work, it is recommended that you implement an adverse weather policy. This gives you an opportunity to develop a strategy for dealing with major disruptions, in advance of them actually happening. You will have more time to consider how best to ensure business continuity, meaning that you can find the solution that works best for your business. Implementing a policy will also give your managers time to understand their responsibilities so that they can deal with employees consistently and will help to set employee expectations as well. Let us know if you need some support drafting such a policy.

 


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