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One year ago Lancaster was reeling from the effects of storm Desmond. Recent forecasts predict an exceptionally cold and snowy winter for 2016/17. High winds, floods and snow can quickly disrupt working life. So can you expect employees to attend work? Do you have to pay them if they don’t? What if they take risks to get to work?

I vividly remember a dedicated employee hiking several miles across snow-covered moors to get to work while others who lived nearby claimed they couldn’t get out of their drives.

You can expect employees to make reasonable efforts to attend work, yet equally warn them unambiguously not to compromise their safety to do so. You may want to make clear, in advance, that if employees do not make reasonable efforts to get to work then they will not be entitled to be paid. Reasonable efforts could include a requirement to make contact with a senior person; so at least you know the detail.

Employees do have a responsibility to get to work and, if they don’t, technically at least you are not obliged to pay them; therefore see some suggestions in the penultimate paragraph of this blog.

On the other hand, if you choose to close the workplace then non-payment becomes highly problematic. If, as the employer, you stop employees being able to work, then employees may be entitled to be paid whether or not they attempted to get to work.

For similar reasons it would be judicious to pay employees whom you send home early. In the end disputes could easily cost you more in lost morale, and hence lower productivity, than any wage costs you are able to salvage.

It is also worth giving thought in advance to any alternative sites of work, and where home working might be appropriate. If your employees work in the community you might want to give some forethought as to how employees might get to service users if there is heavy snow or floods.

Weather has a knack of creating unexpected consequences. Fair treatment of employees, trusting them (even if you cannot trust every single one) and communicating honestly is likely to resolve most issues. For example, many employees will be willing to take the time as holiday or to make up the time later, so as to continue to be paid. At Christmas, of course, pay is especially important.

An explicit adverse weather policy aids consistency, reduces the risk of disputes and helps avoid the de-motivation that can arise from confused expectations. Please contact Employer Solutions if you would like a complementary one.

Please note, blogs offer general guidance and are not a substitute for appropriate professional advice; individual circumstances can differ.