Updated: Dec 7, 2022
When winter kicks in, germs seems to swirl around the office, landing on the unlucky ones, and to top it off, we wait with bated breath for the ‘leaves on the line’ delays to public transport and bad weather which can cause significant travel disruption. All of which can cause some real headaches for Employers, so here are some Top Tips …
Staff absence can be an issue at any time, but the Winter months tend to see more employees falling ill with colds, coughs and the flu. It goes without saying that anything you can do to promote good hygiene in the workplace will help to avoid the spread of germs.
Organisations may wish to consider encouraging the use of the flu vaccination.
In any case, having a clear sickness policy that outlines who the employee needs to call, how they should make contact (themselves rather than a friend or partner, by phone not text etc.) and in what timeframe they must notify their manager of their absence is key, with clear guidance on self-certification, return to work interviews and fit notes explained.
Failure to follow the absence procedure may result in a reduction in pay and can lead to disciplinary action.
Leaves on the Line
Adverse weather affects public transport on an annual basis in the UK, whilst very bad weather conditions can mean unsafe driving conditions, road closures, reduced or cancelled public transport and school closures. This can result in staff finding it hard or sometimes impossible to get into work.
It is good to have a clear stance which has been communicated up front should bad weather make it very difficult for staff to get in to work.
Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees and as such you should never encourage or pressure staff to drive in dangerous weather conditions. Consider whether there is someone who can cover the work at short notice, if the employee can work from home or a work site that is closer to them or if they can make up the time at a later date. Staff may need time off to look after their children if schools are closed. You should try to be as flexible as possible.
If your office is open, but staff cannot get in to work then working from home is a sensible solution if the type of work they do is appropriate. If this is not the case, then you can agree a late annual leave request for the day or unpaid time off for dependents if they are at home due to school closure or a regular carer being unable to get to work.
There may be circumstances where it is necessary to close the workplace because a large number of employees cannot come into work or the weather affects the core business. If you have to close the workplace and the employee does not work from home, employers cannot typically deduct pay.
There is no automatic legal right to be paid if a member of staff cannot get into work and do their job, but you may be required to pay if you have any contractual or customary arrangements in place. If you decide that you will pay for absence as a result of bad weather or travel issues, we would advise you to make it clear to staff that this is for a limited period only, and at Management’s discretion.
If bad weather conditions affect the workplace on an annual basis, it’s worth putting in place a policy in your staff handbook which details how you will deal with lateness, absence and pay in such circumstances.
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The content of our blogs is intended for general information only and does not replace legal or other professional advice.