Employers advised not to dock pay during snow crisis

Employers are being advised against docking the pay of workers who fail to make it into the office due to the snow, even though they are entitled to.

More than one-third of employees were unable to get into the office this morning and a further 43% were late arriving, according to a poll of employers by law firm Peninsula.

But Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD urged employers to rethink laying down the law for absent staff, since it risks damaging trust. He said employers were entitled not to pay employees who fail to show up for work, but strongly advised against it.

“It’s important to show empathy with employees – particularly those who normally perform well – as research shows that this flexibility and trust will pay off in the long term, with employees more motivated and going the extra mile when they are able to get to work,” he said.

“Our experience is that employers tend to deal with these issues pragmatically; few go to ‘law’ about whether or not employees make it in to work. Both sides need to be realistic about what’s possible. There is nothing in it for the employer to require the employee to spend all day trying to get in.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber echoed this view, saying: “In many parts of the country the advice from the police is not to travel unless journeys are absolutely necessary. And given that the adverse weather conditions are causing huge delays across the road and transport networks, it would be very unfair if an employer decided to dock pay from staff who failed to make it in because of the snow.”

The unseasonal weather is expected to cost the UK economy £1.2 billion a day and shows no signs of relenting – an estimated 20cm of additional snow is forecast to fall in parts of the UK by tonight.

Richard Fox, head of employment law at Kingsley Napley, warned that the majority of firms still do not have adequate policies in place to deal with employee absence due to adverse weather, potentially opening them up to financial losses and even legal risk such as discrimination claims.

“Many companies still rely on day-to-day managers making ad-hoc, discretionary decisions about allowing people to work from home or take time off to deal with a burst-pipe or fallen-relative type emergency,” he said.

XpertHR provides guidance for employers on problems in the workplace caused by disruptions to public transport.

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