For immediate release: Monday, 19 January 2015
Medical and dental practices should have a bad weather policy to ensure they are fully prepared for any staff disruptions caused by the harsh winter weather.
MDDUS employment law adviser Liz Symon believes practices need to be flexible so disruptions are kept to a minimum during adverse weather conditions. “A drop in temperatures can bring about some hostilities in the workplace if some employees fail to show due to wintry weather,” says Symon.
“There is no legal obligation to pay staff if they cannot attend work due to the weather conditions. However, the practice may have contractual obligations or have custom and practice arrangements in place from previous years.
“That said, few contracts will include a clause allowing the practice to deduct a day’s pay if an employee cannot make it in and employees also have a statutory right protecting them against unlawful wage deductions.
“So, if the practice does not have the contractual right to deduct pay and the employee does not consent to the deduction, a complaint could be raised.
“Therefore, it is important for the practice to be flexible. How such matters are handled can often affect morale and productivity so it is advisable to introduce a bad weather policy that should be clearly communicated to all employees and applied consistently.”
Possible options within the policy include the employee:
• Receiving a set payment - for example, one day’s full pay only
• Being asked to make the time up at a later date
• Being given the option to use holidays
• Taking the time unpaid
• Working from home, if possible
So what do you do if you suspect an employee is taking advantage of the situation? “Initially, the weather may be so bad that their absence is genuine but, as time goes on and weather and travelling conditions improve, you expect employees to return to work,” says Symon.
“It is reasonable to ask employees to consider alternative modes of transport if their usual option for getting into work is not available.
“If that is not possible, then one option is to ask employees to take holidays for these periods of absence and explain that if further days off are required these too will be deducted from their annual leave entitlement.
“Where employees are absent due to school closures, employees have the statutory right to unpaid time off to deal with emergencies. The key word here is emergencies and not simply because the employee has general childcare issues.
“This time off is for the employee to arrange alternative childcare cover and not to take two or three days off to look after the child themselves. A school closing on a morning, without prior warning, could be classed as an emergency.
“The practice also needs to consider health and safety obligations, as each practice has a duty of care to its employees. If there is a Met Office warning advising only essential travel, it is probably not reasonable to be encouraging employees to try and come to work.
“Any policy should be clearly communicated to all employees and consistently applied.”
For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note to editors
MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland) is a medical and dental defence organisation providing access to professional indemnity and expert medico- and dento-legal advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals throughout the UK.
For further information on MDDUS go to www.mddus.com.