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Harriet McInnes Howes Percival, she's a solictor in employment law HP

Norwich-based lawyer urges employers to be clear on dealing with staff absences during the severe winter weather

Friday, January 18, 2013
4.29 PM

Employers are being urged to make sure they are clear on how they deal with staff unable to reach work because of the severe weather.

With more snow falling across Norfolk and Suffolk, Harriet McInnes, associate solicitor at Howes Percival solicitors in Norwich, said it was important firms had strategies in place.

“In most cases an employee’s contract of employment will not contain any specific provisions dealing with this situation, and the basic legal position is that employees are not entitled to be paid if they cannot attend work to perform their duties or cannot perform the work that they are paid to do either from home or from an alternative location,” she said. “However, employers should bear in mind that if employees have been paid when unable to get to work because of adverse weather in the past, they could argue that this is an ‘implied term’ of their contract, and therefore they should be paid.

“In addition, if the employer decides to close the workplace, then employees should be paid regardless of whether or not they tried to attend work.”

“To limit the impact on businesses, employers can ask the employee to attend work at an alternative location, or to work from home (if their position and available technology make this possible). If this is not possible, then employers may, if they wish, exercise their discretion and pay employees who cannot make it into work due to the weather conditions (particularly where the employee has made genuine and reasonable efforts to attend work), or reach an agreement with the employee that they take such days as holiday.”

“Employees who have to take the day off to look after their children because of school closures should be dealt with separately, as employees have a statutory right to take time off to care for a dependent in an emergency (although such time off is generally unpaid unless the employee’s contract or a company policy states otherwise). In these cases the employer should also ensure that the employee is aware that they should keep their employer informed as to the likely length of any absence and to make alternative childcare arrangements where possible.”