Guest blog: Weather to work?

Following the recent spate of extreme weather, Coodes lawyer Jeremy Harvey explains the legal implications for businesses faced with staff being unable, or unwilling, to travel to work

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Many businesses will continue to pay staff members who miss work because they are unable to travel in, but there is no legal entitlement to do so. Employers can require employees to take annual leave or unpaid leave in these circumstances.

It is worth bearing in mind that if an employee tells you they can’t make it in and you insist they do so, you could be deemed negligent if they then have an accident on the way to work. If you have a genuine belief they could make it in and did not then this could be classed as an unauthorised absence and you would need to follow your usual disciplinary procedures.

If staff are absent, it can put pressure on the rest of the team. What if a staff members works over and above their contracted hours to cover for those who can’t make it in? If they are on an hourly rate then they should be paid overtime in accordance with their contractual rates of pay. If they are salaried then they are not entitled to be paid extra, but you should consider how you can recognise their commitment.

All businesses should have disaster recovery plans in place to ensure that key personnel are contactable at all times and make provision for people who genuinely cannot make it in to work from home. If a number of people are absent, you may need to use agency staff to fill gaps to ensure services run as seamlessly as possible.

Ensure you have clear reporting procedures in place. Every member of staff should know who to call and by what time, if they cannot come in to work. They should keep you updated if conditions change. Have clear procedures in place in respect of when you will pay for leave and ensure they are applied consistently.

About the author: Jeremy Harvey is partner and head of employment and HR at Coodes Solicitors.