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Workplace Disruption

Unfortunately, it’s likely that some employers may be experiencing workplace disruption due to the recent adverse weather conditions. This coupled with JCB’s announcement that it faces a shortage of components from China due to the coronavirus outbreak, may lead some employers to be concerned about what action they can take in relation to employees in the event of workplace disruption.

Below we take a look at some common questions employers may have in relation to these issues.

1. We need to temporarily close our workplace / we don’t have enough work for our employees in the short – term, what can we do?

If you need to temporarily close your workplace perhaps because it has been flooded or otherwise damaged in the storms, or you don’t have enough work for your employees because of issues such as temporary supply chain disruption, you may be able to use short time-working or lay-off to help you.

If you have the necessary clause in your employment contracts, short-time working/layoff enables you to reduce an employee’s working hours or give them no work for a period of time without the need to continue to pay them full pay. Instead, employees will only be paid for the hours they actually work and if there is a completely workless day, a ‘guarantee payment’ if they qualify for it. Guarantee pay is currently £29 per day (subject to a maximum of five days in any three months).

Whilst short-time working/lay-off can be very useful for employers who have the contractual right to use it, it’s important to understand the rules regarding its use and operation. This is particularly important as employees can, in some cases, make a claim for a statutory redundancy payment if they are laid off or placed on short-time working for a certain period of time.

If you are considering using short time working or lay-off in your organisation, or you would like to discuss the options available in your situation, please contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are here to help.

2. Employees who are unable to get to work:

(a) If an employee is unable to get to work because of adverse weather conditions/flooding do we need to pay them?

As your employees aren’t working they wouldn’t normally be entitled to be paid. However, you should check your contracts of employment and consider your past practice to  see if you have given your employees a contractual right to be paid in this situation.

If there is no contractual right to be paid, you could still choose to pay employees who are unable to get to work due to adverse weather conditions/flooding. Whilst there would be no legal requirement for you to do this, it could be beneficial in terms of employee relations. If you wish to follow this route, you should ensure you are being fair and that you are treating all employees consistently. It would also be advisable to make it clear that any such payment is at the discretion of the Company. It’s worth bearing in mind that if you pay employees in this situation over a long period of time, they may try to argue that they are always entitled to be paid in these circumstances due to custom and practice.

Depending on your business and the employee’s role, you may wish to consider whether allowing the employee to work from home would be a practical option for both parties. If an employee does work from home, they would of course need to be paid for this.

(b) An employee is unable to get to work due to adverse weather conditions/flooding, they have asked to take this as a day’s holiday, is this allowed?

If the employee has enough holiday left to use you could let them take it in this way if you wish to do so. It could be beneficial for both the business and your employee – if the employee would not otherwise be entitled to be paid it means they won’t lose out on money. It can be beneficial for you too as the employee will have fewer holiday days to take later in the year.

Employers can raise taking holiday as an option for employees in this situation, but please bear in mind that you can’t insist an employee uses holiday to cover such an absence if they don’t wish to do so. This is because there are rules about how much notice an employer must give if they wish to force employees to take holiday.

(c) An employee has said they are unable to come to work because the school/nursery is closed or other childcare arrangements have broken down. Is the employee entitled to time off?

Employees have the statutory right to a reasonable period of unpaid time off for dependants. The right applies where an employee needs to take time off work because of unexpected disruption to the care arrangements for a dependant, such as a child.

An employee who needs to take dependent care leave should tell you of the reason for the absence, and likely length of the absence, as soon as they can.

It’s important to bear in mind that it is not just employees who have children that may find themselves having to deal with the unexpected disruption to the arrangements for the care of a dependant. It could for example, also affect employee’s whose elderly parents need care, this too can be classed as dependent care leave.

If you have any employment law matters you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.