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Bad weather? Do employees have to come to work?

Employers may not be able to control the climate or public transport, but there are some steps that they can take to deal with issues arising from adverse weather or problems with the transport system that disrupt employees’ ability to get to work.

It is advisable for employers to put in place an “adverse weather” or “journey into work” policy that deals with issues such as the steps that employees are expected to take to attempt to get into work on time and the consequences of turning up late with regard to, for example, their pay. Having such a policy should mean that there is much less scope for confusion or disagreement.

Alternative ways of working

Employers will need to be flexible, where possible if bad weather conditions or public transport problems make it difficult for their employees to get to work.

Employers should consider reasonable alternative ways of working throughout the disruption. This could include letting staff work flexible hours or make up lost hours at a later time, or issuing employees with laptops to enable them to work from home.

Where possible, and particularly where potential disruption is predicted, employers may want to take steps in advance to facilitate remote working for their employees. This could include ensuring that IT systems are able to support multiple employees working from home and installing online meeting software to enable remote
employees to remain in contact with those in the office.

Clearly this will not be appropriate for all employees in all working environments, but where it is possible, such measures might help to reduce unnecessary levels of absenteeism and ensure that work demands continue to be met. It is also likely to promote goodwill among employees if they feel that their employer is being flexible.

Closure of schools or nurseries

If schools or nurseries are closed, for example due to heavy snow making it dangerous or difficult for staff and children to get in, employees who do not have alternative childcare options may be in the position that, while they could get into work despite the weather, it is necessary for them to spend the day looking after their children.
Such circumstances will almost certainly fall within the dependant leave regime under s.57(A) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, which includes the employee’s right to take a reasonable amount of time off:

• because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant; or
• to deal with an incident that occurs unexpectedly in a period during which an educational establishment is responsible for the employee’s child.

Time off in these circumstances is unpaid (unless the employer chooses to pay employees or the contract provides for paid leave) and should last only for as long as necessary to deal with the immediate situation. If a closure is scheduled to last a week, the employer might reasonably expect the employee to make alternative arrangements within that time to permit them to return to work.