Taking it to the Extreme – now is the time for your business to develop an Adverse Weather Policy

26 July 2022
4 minutes

As we see the number of extreme weather events on the rise – be it heat waves, flooding or winter storms – should employers be looking to introduce an Adverse Weather policy or amend an existing one?

Such policies have been common for many years, although things have changed in recent years with the rise in working from home as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent hybrid working models. But the simple answer is yes, employers should have one. Not all workplaces can facilitate their employees working from home but even if employees can work from home, how do they cope with associated issues such as school or childcare facility closures. Obviously, most employers will have dealt with adverse weather events before and will have an idea of how they will handle such matters, but there are a number of important provisions that can be included.

The underpinning employer’s obligation in extreme weather events is their duty of care of its employees and in particular their health and safety. In extreme weather events, this will principally concern the commute to and from work. Employers should be aware of any local advice or warnings for example from the Met Office, public transport companies or emergency services who may advise against travel. This will be relevant in deciding whether to require employees to attend the work premises. A central issue here is that if an employer, for health and safety reasons, closes the work premises or does not require the employee to attend work then there is still a requirement to pay them. By contrast, if the employee makes the decision that they cannot attend work because of the weather or because of say impact to school or childcare arrangementsm then it is a decision for the employer as to whether the employee is paid.

One of the key issues covered in an Adverse Weather Policy is how the issue of pay will be dealt with if an employee cannot attend work because of extreme weather. Here are some of the options that can be included in an Adverse Weather Policy:

Paid on a discretionary basis
An employer could retain discretion to pay employees on a case-by-case basis. Such considerations may include where they are commuting from or circumstances that make it more difficult for them to attend work.

Full Pay or Limited Pay:
An employer could have a policy to pay employees for weather-related absence either for each day of absence or perhaps for a limited period for example up to 3 days.

Working from home:
It may be possible for an employee to work from home instead of having to attend the office.

Working from a different site:
If an employer has multiple sites and another site is less affected, then consideration could be given to requesting employees to attend that site.

Taking annual leave:
Employees could be given the opportunity to take annual leave for weather-related absences. Should they have insufficient leave then the employer could allow them to bring forward some holiday entitlement from the next holiday year.

Unpaid leave:
If the employee does not wish to or cannot avail of the alternatives, then it would be considered as unpaid leave.

Time off in lieu:
Some employers operate time off in lieu and in such circumstances, employees could take time off in lieu to cover adverse weather absence.

Working time back:
This will be more likely to apply to say weather-related lateness. Employees could be required to work back the time if they have been significantly delayed in attending work.

Finally, the importance of lay-off clauses in the contract of employment. If extreme weather forces the closure of a particular site, then technically employees are still entitled to pay. If the employer has the benefit of a ‘lay off’ clause in the contract, then the employees can be temporarily laid off for a short period either without pay or under a policy of reduced pay.

It is therefore a good idea for employers to plan ahead for how they will deal with extreme weather events given their increasing number. Incorporating any existing arrangements in a policy is good practice. It may also be appropriate to ensure that where necessary any appropriate provisions are made in the employment contract to give effect to the policy terms for example lay off, mobility, holiday clauses etc.

Should you need any further advice on drafting or implementing an Adverse Weather Policy please get in touch with the Employment team at MKB Law.

This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.

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