Weekly dilemma – Flooding

The recent bad weather in the north of England has caused chaos on the roads and rail network. Many employees have found themselves unable to reach their workplace, leaving businesses under-staffed and in some cases struggling to cope.

Generally speaking, the onus is on staff to get to work, regardless of the severity of the weather. If they fail to do so, you are under no obligation to pay them. Legally, therefore, you would be entitled to deduct pay for any time taken off work as a result of the recent flooding.

However, while you are legally entitled to deduct pay, this may not be in the interests of the business, particularly if staff have made an effort to get to work. Deducting pay will have a negative impact on morale, and the administrative burden of calculating the loss of pay may outweigh the potential benefit.

To minimise disruption to your business, look at alternative solutions. For example, if an employee’s normal mode of transport cannot be used, encourage them to explore alternative means of safe transport. Bear in mind your health and safety obligations – workers should not feel under pressure to risk their safety to get into the office. Help staff plan their travel by providing regular updates on the travel situation by e-mail or on an intranet. Alternatively, they may be able to work from home until the situation has improved.

If none of these solutions are plausible, you should tell staff that time off work will be taken as annual leave, unpaid, or paid on a discretionary basis, but only in exceptional cases. And consider creating an ‘adverse weather’ or similar policy setting out clear rules governing these situations.

Finally, if staff fail to notify you that they will be late for work, or are unable to get into work at all, in the absence of a good reason this will be a disciplinary issue.

Mary Clarke, employment partner, DLA Piper

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