TUC advice on what to do when it snows

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date: 1 December 2010

embargo: For immediate release

With large parts of the UK under snow and ice, the TUC is urging employers to adopt a flexible attitude to staff attendance, and where possible allow employees to work from home.

As the arctic conditions spread across the UK, causing hundreds of schools to close, working parents have the added problem of what to do with their children even if they can make it into work, says the TUC.

With the cold snap likely to continue for several more days, the TUC says that if employees have internet, e-mail and phones at home, the most sensible solution for employers is to allow them to work there during snowy periods.

Communication between employers and their staff, and between workers and their managers is key when the weather takes a turn for the worse, says the TUC.

Good employers will already have 'bad weather' policies in place and will have told their workforce what is expected of them when snow and ice close the workplace or make the usual commute difficult or hazardous. Any 'snow' policy should also cover what parents should do if their local schools close and they have no alternative means of childcare.

Clearly workers should make every effort to get in to work and not simply give up at the first sight of a few snowflakes, says the TUC. But embarking on a journey which could put themselves or the emergency services in danger, is not a sensible move either, particularly if they live in isolated, rural areas.

Employers also need to be careful that they aren't putting undue pressure on their employees to get into work, or are putting them in a situation where staff feel they have no choice but to go into work or risk facing possible disciplinary action or losing a day's pay.

Not every kind of job can be done from home and the blizzard-like conditions are putting undue pressure on the health and emergency services in some areas. Often staff will be struggling to cover for colleagues who haven't been able to make it in, says the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'In many parts of the country the advice from the police is not to travel unless journeys are absolutely necessary. And given that the adverse weather conditions are causing huge delays across the road and transport networks, it would be very unfair if an employer decided to dock pay from staff who failed to make it in because of the snow.

'Workers everywhere have been braving the snow and ice to get into work, but where the weather makes someone's usual commute unsafe, or where working parents find themselves with children but with no childcare, a more sensible approach is needed.

'Best practice is simply to pay as normal those staff who cannot make it in. Asking employees to take a day's holiday is less reasonable and may create unnecessary resentment. Where possible staff should be encouraged to work from home. That way the job still gets done, most of the wintery hazards are avoided, and good workplace relations are maintained.'

Advice on workSMART, the TUC's world of work website, to individuals living in snow-bound parts of the country says:

  • Many companies recognise the benefits of having 'bad weather' policies to advise employees of what they should do if they cannot reach work because of the weather and lack of transport.
  • Many employees are now able to work from home, thanks to technology linking them to an office network, and this might be a useful alternative for both staff and employers to consider.
  • Whether an employer has a right to withhold pay if an individual fails to get into work due to bad weather will depend on the person's contract, or the policies or custom and practice in the workplace. In cases where the office or factory does not open, many employers will have a contractual duty to pay staff who turn up to work.
  • If an employer refuses to pay staff or forces them to take holiday, this could cause unnecessary resentment among those who've been kept away from work through no fault of their own, or create a risk for people travelling to work in genuinely dangerous situations. Individuals may in some circumstances have legal rights to recover their pay, depending on the rules in the workplace.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- An example of a 'bad weather' policy might be:

During bad weather or when there is severe transport disruption, staff may have difficulties getting to work or returning home. Employees should make every effort to get into work. However, (insert employer's name) is committed to protecting staff health and safety and does not expect staff to put themselves at risk. Staff should use their judgement, take heed of any travel warnings and not travel if the advice is to only make essential trips. If you judge that weather conditions or transport problems make it impossible for you to get to work, you should contact (insert designated contact head of department/line manager) as soon as possible. Your manager will make a judgement on whether:

? you will be allowed to come in late;

? you will be allowed to work from home; or

? if your job can't be done at home, you will be allowed to stay at home without suffering any loss of pay or annual leave.

If you are advised to come in late you will be allowed to claim your normal working hours.

If your line manager is not available, try to speak to someone else in the workplace. Failing that, please leave a voicemail message for your manager, including a contact telephone number. Your manager can then ring you to advise what to do.

If you need to leave work early because of bad weather or severe disruption to transport services, you need to discuss this first with your line manager, and depending on the circumstances, you will be allowed to claim your normal working hours.

If your workplace remains closed due to bad weather, (insert employer's name) will try to contact you before your normal starting time, where this is possible.

- The TUC snow advice on worksmart is at http://www.worksmart.org.uk/news/2009/02/bad-weather-commutings-snow-joke

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk

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