Don't let it snowball!

Posted: 20th December 2010

SnowIt's always fun at first, unless the snow happens to have disrupted a particularly special or important event but it doesn’t take long for the novelty to wear off, as businesses start to count the cost of the adverse weather conditions.

For small and medium sized enterprises it could mean inability to operate properly or at all. Income may be seriously hit.

Others may need to deal only with the question of whether the payroll keeps rolling for those who generally cannot make it to work as usual - if the enchanting scene outside the window means hard luck for them, or for the employer.

The basic position, subject to any express terms or established practices, is that the employee who cannot get to work is not entitled to be paid. It works both ways, of course, and an employee who battles the odds to get there may still be entitled to remuneration even if absences of colleagues or other problems have forced the business to close.

Sometimes, it is a secondary problem that makes attendance at work difficult or impossible. It may be that school is closed or an elderly or disabled relative is less able to cope with the difficulties.

Paid holiday agreed at short notice, or unpaid leave – regardless of whether it is accepted to be an entitlement under the regulations allowing time off to look after dependents - may or may not be the answer in some case.

Within professional and service industries, it is far more likely today that employees can still perform at least some work from home or another remote location, even if they cannot physically travel to the normal place of work. Of course, many businesses operate normally within a structure that facilitates remote working, with cloud computing systems.

The answers to these situations are rarely simple, even where contractual rights are clear. Even if it is easy to deal with some employees, it may not be with others and that dilemma can lead to inconsistencies and perceived unfairness.

Our advice is to promote throughout the business, a positive approach - one that asks what we can do in these difficult conditions, rather than focusing on all the things that we can’t.

There is some useful guidance available at, for example, the following link on the ACAS website. In more difficult or complex situations, Williamsons is happy to offer practical as well as technical advice.