With any weather warning for snow and ice issued for Dorset and the much of the UK, now may be the time to consider what happen at work if the weather turns colder.
Amy Cousineau Massey, Associate in the Employment Team at Steele Raymond gives her legal advice on what employees and employers must consider in the event of extreme weather conditions.
Can my boss make me come to work it its unsafe?
Your boss can’t force you to travel if it’s unsafe. Employers owe a duty of care to their employees and must not put them in a situation that would compromise their safety.
Will I be paid if I don’t come to work because of snow?
If an employment contract sets out that payment will be for work done, for example hourly paid workers, then arguably the employer is not obliged to pay. However, in the case of salaried employees, if the employee was ready willing and able to work bar the weather disruption there could be an argument that any deduction would be unlawful. As the law is unclear employers need to set out their position clearly and draft their policies and contracts in line with that position.
If my workplace closes, do they still have to pay me?
Employees with contractually guaranteed hours must still be paid however zero-hours employees or employees with effective lay-off clauses might not need to be paid.
What if my school or childcare provider is shut?
If your school or childcare is shut, you are allowed unpaid time to make other arrangements, though not automatically to do the childcare yourself: Although if another arrangement cannot be made the employee may have to do the childcare themselves and the right to unpaid time would extend.
Is there a minimum legal temperature in the workplace?
An Employer should risk assess and determine what is reasonable in each circumstance. Employers have a duty of care towards their employees, this will apply in the event of extreme weather including thermal comfort of employees, but there are no prescribed limits.
What else do I need to know?
The key for an employer is to set out an inclement weather and travel disruption policy and communicate that with its employees well in advance of any extreme weather conditions.
If the employer wants to deduct wages in the event of bad weather travel disruptions they should ultimately reflect this in the employment contract.
Where the law is not clear, having clear policies and contractual provisions is a must and communicating these provisions clearly to all employees is essential.
Some employers will want to go further than the law requires in order to maintain staff morale or for public relations considerations.
In advance of inclement weather an employer should:
During inclement weather:
The key for an employee is to understand that they owe implied duties of mutual trust and confidence and an implied duty of adaptability to their employer. These duties will apply to all employees and even if not expressly set out within the employment contract, will be implied terms. The implied duties extend to cover inclement weather situations and mean that an employee will have to do what they can to get into work, provided their safety is not at risk. This would likely include an obligation to set off earlier, take an alternative mode of transport (walk or cycle) or be available to work from home where these options are possible.
If an employee could reasonably have attended work but uses inclement weather as an excuse for a day off they could face disciplinary sanctions for unauthorised absence. On the other hand, an employee must make sure that they are acting responsibly and not putting themselves or others at risk by travelling in dangerous conditions. If an employee perceives that travelling to work would put their safety at risk, they have a duty to communicate this to their employer as soon as possible.
Extracts of this article also appeared in the Bournemouth Echo here.
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