Flooding and bad weather – what are your obligations as an employer?

The past couple of months have brought misery for many people in Lancashire and Cumbria after storms Frank and Desmond devastated homes, roads and businesses.

By Karen Credie, KMCHR.

The recent floods have also created numerous issues for employers, from employees not being able to make it into their place of work and business premises being closed due to flooding or lack of power. Here, we look at some of the issues bad weather can have on employers and provide some advice on how to tackle them.

What should I do if employees can’t make it into work because of the weather?

Under UK employment law, there is no legal responsibility for employers to pay staff that cannot attend work due to bad weather, flooding, or any other ‘natural disaster’. However, most employers will exercise discretion in the event that employees are facing such difficulties, making allowances wherever possible. Employers may wish to consider a temporary solution to allow the affected employee to continue to work – such as making provisions for working from home or alternative business premises if they are available. Again, whilst there is no obligation upon employers to do so, most employers would be well placed to allow staff facing difficulties such as those experienced by flooding to take unpaid leave or use annual leave at short notice whilst they sort things out.

What should I do if I have had to close my business?

The recent floods have seen an unprecedented number of businesses being forced to close due to damage, access issues or power failure. In such circumstances, employers should be aware that they are still required to pay staff their wages in full throughout the period of closure. Furthermore, all other rights afforded to employees, such as accrual of holidays, also continue to apply.

If a business premises is closed for a short period of time, there is little choice for employers but to ride it out. Where long term closure is on the cards, business owners may have no choice but to look towards laying staff off or instigating redundancies. It is important to note that correct procedure needs to be followed in relation to any action such as this in order to avoid potential claims being brought in the future. For more help and advice in relation to any aspect of employment law following the bad weather, please get in touch with us.