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It's Snow Excuse: Safety of Employees Should Be Paramount in Extreme Weather Conditions

Employers need to make sure weather-related absences are genuine

​​Employers are being urged by workplace expert Croner (www.cronersolutions.co.uk) to make sure they have the right procedures in place to deal with the predicted heavy snowfall.

Croner, part of global information services business Wolters Kluwer, is getting a large number of calls to its business advice lines on what precautions companies should take. The callers are not only asking about a health and safety issues but what happens if employees fail to turn up for work (and in some cases pulling sickies) and using the weather as an excuse.

Health and safety challenges

Croner's Health and Safety expert, Stephen Thomas, is urging employers to set clear guidelines to help their employees understand and comply with company policies on adverse weather conditions.

Stephen says: "Employers should have clear terms in their contracts to ensure there is maximum flexibility when bad weather happens. It's a particular problem for people who live in rural areas and it is the responsibility of their employer to ensure they are taking precautions against dangerous commutes.

Although it may be inconvenient when staff can't get to work, employers should not risk putting their employees in danger by encouraging them to drive in unsafe conditions in an attempt to get to work."

Employment issues

From an employment perspective the issues that arise from adverse weather conditions centre on whether employees should be paid if they can't get to work and what happens if a worker uses the weather as an excuse not to go.

Louise Barnes, Senior Employment Consultant at Croner, says:

Most of our callers ask whether staff should be paid if they can't get to work, or what happens if two employees live in a similar location and one makes it in to work and the other doesn't.

In some instances there are genuine reasons for absence and employers should be sympathetic to those employees. However, there are cases where employees are using these conditions as an excuse not to turn up to work.

If employers find that employees have used the weather as a reason to take time off, they are well within their rights to not pay the employee for the time they have taken off or request that the individual takes the time as annual leave and, if necessary they could investigate the circumstances behind the absence and consider whether disciplinary action would be appropriate.

Employers need to ensure they have formal procedures in place to deal with employees who are absent from work. Having a procedure to follow means an employer can show that employees are treated equally, fairly and reasonably, which is important if they want to discipline them for poor attendance.

Employers are also advised from a business continuity perspective to put measures in place so that key employees can work from home so that the business remains operational.

About Croner
Croner, a Wolters Kluwer business, is the UK’s largest provider of workplace information, software and services. It has served HR, health & safety and business professionals since 1948. Wolters Kluwer is a market-leading global information services company with annual revenues (2011) of €3.4 billion and maintains operations in over 40 countries across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Wolters Kluwer is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands. Its shares are quoted on Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices.