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Lichfield expert urges firms to introduce adverse weather policy

Pic: Tom Rolfe

Pic: Tom Rolfe

With temperatures hitting sub zero, a Lichfield employment law expert has urged companies to ensure they have an adverse weather policy in place.

Last year over 20 per cent of the UK’s working population – about 6.4 million people – were unable to attend work. Conditions were so bad in the West Midlands that 30 per cent of small and medium-sized firms couldn’t open at all, at an estimated cost to the economy of £600 million.

Lita Kirwan, from Bradin Trubshaw & Kirwan, warns that the law is “a grey area” when it comes to taking time off due to severe weather conditions. She explained:

“Employers are not obliged to pay employees if they do not turn up to work but equally cannot force them to take holiday. The usual compromise to grant emergency unpaid leave, but even then an employee must give consent before pay is deducted from his or her wages – it’s by no means a clear cut situation.

“The sensible solution is for a company to have a policy in place which compels employees to make their ‘best efforts’ to get to work. However, it’s also important to stress that they should not put themselves at risk in doing so – especially those who drive as part of their job, as a company has a clear duty of care in this situation.

“It’s important that employers are as reasonable as they can be, especially to staff who are parents and may need time off to look after their children if nursery or school is cancelled. Each case should be assessed on its merits, but it really is a case of negotiating a solution rather than sticking prescriptively to the rule book.

“More forward-thinking companies have introduced schemes whereby employees can make up lost hours or even work from home to save deducting pay from salary. Even if an employee can undertake a little work from home, it means the company doesn’t lose all productivity when the bad weather strikes.”

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1 Comment

  1. Wendy Vickers

    3rd December, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    We have flexible policies where staff can work from home during bad weather. My difficulty, though, is getting enough staff to attend to enable the centre to run. More than 50% of staff are taking the option of working from home and the same hardy few are left running the centre. How can I be fair to everyone??