December 03, 2010 - Anonymous

Clear staff pay policy needed for snow days

Employers who intend to dock the pay of staff who can’t make it into work during the wintry conditions must make it clear part of their policy, law firms have warned.

Snowfall of up to 30 cm has fallen across the UK, causing widespread disruption to travel. The Met Office has issued heavy snow warnings for Yorkshire and Humber, north-east and south-west England, the East, East Midlands, London and the South East.

Law firm Ralli’s employment solicitor, Jennifer Smith, said that if an employment contract does not make it clear that the employee won’t be paid if they can’t get into work, a deduction of pay is unauthorised.

She added that employers should consider flexible working to ensure staff safety. “Employers have a duty of care to their employees and a potential liability may exist if staff are pressurised into travelling in dangerous conditions,” said Smith.

During the snowy weather in early 2010, many small firms allowed their staff time off on full pay. However, Employment Law Advisory Services business compliance specialist, Peter Mooney, said that although employees have no legal right to pay if they cannot make it to work, employers need to include this in staff contracts in order for it to apply.

“The law is very simple when it comes to the weather – if you don’t turn up to work and you’re not ill, you have no right to be paid,” he said. “But earlier this year most employers took a more balanced view and said that providing staff had made a genuine attempt to make it into work, and could not work from home, they were allowed the time off on full pay.

“Unfortunately, in doing so, they have set themselves a precedent which they will need to follow unless they amend their contracts to incorporate a new and more stringent bad weather policy,” he added.

Acas director Jerry Gibson said that employers should review their policies and put in place an “adverse weather” or “journey into work” section to avoid confusion over issues such as staff pay. “We would encourage employers to be as flexible as they can while still being able to run their business or workplace,” he said.