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How To Overcome Weather Disruptions To Your Business

As Small Business owners, many unplanned events can affect your business. One of them being your staff not attending work, and this week, this might be because of adverse weather disruptions.

My inbox is full of emails from railway companies and London Underground. The emails all warn to beware that snow is coming, and we all know what this means! The whole of Britain is going to grind to a halt! Okay, okay, I might be exaggerating just a tiny little bit. However, staff not attending work can bring a Small Business to its knees, so it is vital you prepare yourself.

Here are some common questions I get asked which might help should there be weather disruptions in the coming weeks. Maybe bookmark this page so you can come back to for reference should you need it.

During Weather Disruptions, Can Employees Be Required To Work From Home?

If your employees rely on public transport, can they be asked to work from home? For some jobs, it is just not possible to work from home. However, for some roles, it is something that should be considered. If it is not in your employee’s contract of employment (or your policy on adverse weather disruptions and alternative methods of work) forcing an employee to work from home without mutual consent could bring a claim of constructive dismissal.

That is the worst-case scenario, and most employees would be happy to work from home, but then there are health and safety considerations along with the unanswerable question of how much work are they actually doing?  Let’s face it, the UK doesn’t get snow that often and the urge to make snowman might be too overwhelming!

Do I Have To Pay Late or Absent Employees?

Is an employer required to pay employees who arrive later or do not arrive at all due to weather disruptions and other issues which affect public transport?

It is up to the employee to make arrangements to get to work, and employers are under no obligation to pay for any time employees are unable to get to work, either late or at all. If no public transport is available, ask if there is another way the employee can get to work. Alternatively, could they work at a different location?

Failing these ideas, maybe look at options such as unpaid leave or annual holiday.  Just a note that employers are under no obligation to grant last minute holiday and for some small businesses this could cause a massive issue if they did.

What If I Have To Close My Business Down Due To Weather Disruptions?

If an employer closes its business because disrupted public transport prevents employees from attending work, does it have to pay its employees?

If weather disruptions are so significant that most of the staff won’t be able to attend work, the employer may decide to close for the day. Temporary closure would be classed as a period of lay off. Unless an employer has a ‘layoff and short-time working’ clause in their contracts of employment, they would need to pay their employees or if the employees agree to be laid off without pay. Failure to pay without this clause could be a breach of contract or employees could also claim for unauthorised deductions in wages.

If there is a clause in the contract for a period of lay-off without pay, then the employees could be entitled to a statutory guarantee payment, which is up to a maximum of £26 for any day when work is not available.

What About Schools, Nurseries & Childcare?

If an employee has a child at a school or nursery that closes due to severe weather disruptions, must the employee be given time off if they can not arrange childcare?

Employees have a statutory right to have a reasonable period of time off to care for dependants. However, the right is limited to deal with the emergency at the time and should be used to sort out a longer-term solution should the same situation happen the following day, for example.

It should also be noted that in the case where there are two carers, e.g. two parents then the responsibility should be equally shared.

In Summary:

Severe weather disruptions like we are having at the moment is getting to be a bit more frequent. As responsible employers and employees, these situations should be discussed before they become an issue, and alternative plans of action should be agreed upon in advance.

If you would like to discuss how weather disruptions might affect your business, please drop me an email or give me a ring.

Finally, every cloud has a silver lining, so if it does snow in the south tomorrow and you make a snowman, please send me a photo on Social Media at @kateunderwoodhr.

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