By Claire West

Extreme weather conditions are leaving many employers in the dark about how to tackle absent employees.

With some staff snowed in and others arriving several hours late, employers are being urged to take steps to protect their business, whilst still looking after their employees.

Employment solicitor Jennifer Smith, from law firm Ralli, said: "Employees have a duty of care to their employees and a potential liability may exist if employees are pressurised into travelling in dangerous conditions.

"If the official advice by the authorities is to stay at home unless a journey is absolutely essential, then employers must be careful and avoid putting too much pressure on staff to travel to work.

"Adopt a common sense and balanced approach between
encouraging employees to make all reasonable efforts to get to work, and forcing them into a situation where they feel they have no alternative but to travel to work or risk facing possible disciplinary action."

Jennifer believes flexibility is key in adverse weather conditions. Offering staff alternative hours by allowing staff to start work late or leave early is an option or consider allowing staff who are struggling to get into work to work from home.

Loss of income is also a concern for those unable to make it into the office. Jennifer adds: "Employees are increasingly concerned their employers may dock pay if they are unable to get into work. One argument is if employees are unable to carry out the work that they are employed and paid to do, then employers do not have to pay them. However, employers should act with caution! A deduction from pay in most instances will be unauthorised unless the contract of employment provides for a deduction."

"Similarly, it is questionable whether employers have the right to force staff to use holiday entitlement. For example, employees have a statutory right to unpaid time off to care for dependants and if educational establishments close, this may be necessary."

Visit www.ralli.co.uk to find out more about safeguarding your business against future weather conditions.


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