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27th February 2014

“I Can’t Get to Work”

let it snow– it’s floods, snow, severe weather warning, a sinkhole in the road….

This is one call any hard-pressed employer dreads and the solution may well be beyond the reach of the employee or employer. A range of circumstances can make it practically impossible for an employee, or indeed all your employees, to get to work.

There will be a number of business considerations. A contingency plan to maintain essential services should be in place. It will need to be specific to your services, geography, public transport and, probably, home location of staff.

Part of the contingency plan will be arrangements for communication.


Employees should know in advance what you expect of them in such circumstances. In particular you would not want them taking unreasonable risks to get to work.

If you don’t want them to attend work, it is best to tell them. But see below regarding payment implications.

A website (perhaps in a restricted area) can be used to inform staff of what is happening minute to minute if you need to re-allocate, for example, different carers to different Service Users. Twitter and facebook can be used if there are no confidentiality issues. Thought needs to be given to the process in advance.

Paying employees

The first point is to be clear that it is the employee’s responsibility to attend work. Reasonable employers will do all they can to help but, ultimately, they are not obliged (unless in the employment contract) to pay an employee who cannot attend work. Be careful, though, because if you have paid employees in similar circumstances in the past (say due to snow) you may have set a precedent that would apply if an employee cannot now get to work because of floods.

If you do decide to pay then be careful about consistency. I remember a notable winter when one diligent employee hiked across the moors to get to work while a local employee didn’t attend because he couldn’t get his car off the drive. If you pay non-attenders then it is scant reward for those who went (maybe walked) the extra mile.

Also bear in mind that if you stop employees working when they are willing to do so, then, unless you have a lay-off provision in place, you will have to pay them full pay.

Of course, for some employees, working from home may be an option.

In other circumstances employees may prefer to take holiday rather than be unpaid.

Disciplining employees

Discipline is only appropriate where matters are clearly under the control of the employee and the employee chooses to not respond. In cases where a Service User is left vulnerable then serious discipline will be appropriate – but in practice the true level of control the employee had may be difficult to establish.

QCS policies and procedures

Further guidance is available in the Unable To Attend Workplace Policy and Procedure and the Severe Weather Conditions Policy and Procedure.

Malcolm Martin – QCS Expert Human Resources Contributor

Topics: Human Resources

Sarah Riley

Senior Customer Care Executive

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