Being snowed in cuts no ice with British employers

Nov 21 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

With winter well and truly upon us, employees who cannot make it into work because of bad weather could be in for a shock – the majority could find their pay being docked, even if they have been snowed in.

More than half – 52 per cent of UK employers – do not pay their workers when extreme weather prevents them from coming into work, although such an approach can end up backfiring, warned employment and health & safety consultancy Croner.

With the Met Office predicting that Britain is facing its coldest winter for a decade, employers are being advised to put adverse weather policies in place to tell snowed-in staff if they will be paid as normal.

They are also being urged to consider practical options to help workers struggle into work.

Although employers are well within their rights to cut employees' pay for unauthorised absence, they should be communicating this to their workforce now to avoid them getting any nasty surprises, said Croner.

Richard Smith, employment services director, said: "Despite the very worst weather conditions, every employee has a contract with their employer to show up for work each day.

"Although not a legal requirement, having a well-communicated adverse weather policy in place could help in certain situations to avoid conflict or confusion should an employee be late or fail to attend work altogether as a result of bad weather," he added.

He continued: "But before cutting pay, we advise employers to consider 'fairer' options where possible and practicable, such as home-working or making up the time at a later date.

"And, although it might be extremely inconvenient when staff can't get to work, employers should not risk putting their employees in danger by encouraging them to brave unsafe conditions in an attempt to get to work.

"With a bit of forward planning for bad weather now, employers can feasibly allow employees to take unexpected time off as annual leave, or plan home-working solutions," he added.

The increasing prevalence of laptops and home internet systems now meant it was much easier for employees simply to work from home if they were snowed in, he suggested.

"In fact, a goodwill gesture of continuing to pay staff who can't attend work might actually have a positive effect on business productivity and morale in the long term," said Smith.

"Employers should adopt a common sense approach to weather-related absences. They need to consider whether the benefits of paying staff in times of severe weather outweigh the cost of the working hours lost.

"A small act of goodwill by UK bosses may go along way towards keeping a happy, hard-working and safe workforce," he concluded.