So what should an employer do if an employee says they cannot attend work?
• Treat all employees consistently.
Consistency promotes fairness and will help maintain good employee relations, as well as assist in avoiding any unwanted claims of unlawful discrimination. In order to achieve consistency, it is wise for each organisation to have a policy as to how such absence will be treated i.e. as holiday, unpaid leave or some other alternative.
• Ask employees to explain why they cannot come to work.
A full explanation should be sought from employees who say that they cannot come to work because of bad weather. This is especially important if other employees, who live nearby, have managed to get into work.
There is also no problem in calling an employee who fails to turn up for work and who has not called already or has simply left a message. Alternative ways of getting into work could then be suggested and the validity of an employee’s excuse could be tested.
Look out for employees who allege that they cannot come to work because of bad weather on a Monday and Friday. Employees are more likely to allege the above in order to extend their weekend.
What steps should be taken to minimise disruption to a business?
Plan ahead. Having a plan in place can help prevent a drop in productivity or worse complete closure.
- Provide as much advance warning as possible of inability to attend work so that you can arrange cover;
- Ask friends/relatives and colleagues if they can get a lift to work or if they can stay overnight and walk to work from there;
- Use public transport if available;
- Work from home;
- Check weather forecasts in advance;
- Leave more time for any journeys to avoid arriving to work late;
- Check what roads the employees drive on to get to work – minor roads are more likely to be affected by the snow than major roads;
- Where the employees live – the closer the employee lives to work the less likely they are going to have problems in getting in because of the snow – and vice versa; Check the age of the employee – elderly employees are less likely to be able to walk to work in snowy or icy conditions;
- Whether the employee has mobility problems – employees with mobility problems are less likely to be able to do the above or use public transport;
- What transport options are available to the employee – some areas are not well serviced by public transport and some employees may not have any friends/relatives/colleagues that live nearby them to get a lift to work with.
Of course, employers should not force employees to risk their health and safety by coming to work in snowy or icy conditions if they are likely to have an accident, otherwise they are likely to have time off work on sick leave.
In view of the fact that this country in recent years has experienced heavy snow fall, it seems only prudent that contingency plans are put into place.
If you need assistance in drafting an adverse weather policy or would like advice on anything in this bulletins, please do not hesitate one of the employment team.