Managing Employee Absence During Extreme Weather:
In light of Storm Isha that caused destruction around Ireland, extreme and severe weather events can significantly impact both employees’ ability to report for work and employers’ ability to operate their businesses and close unexpectedly. In such circumstances, employers and employees may face challenges that are not explicitly addressed in employment contracts or statements of terms. This article aims to provide guidance on managing employee absence during extreme weather events, covering various aspects such as payment obligations, leave options, roster changes, and terms and conditions of employment.
Payment Obligations During Extreme Weather Events
- Statutory Entitlement and Agreements: There is generally no statutory entitlement for employees to be paid when they cannot attend work due to extreme weather. However, employers and employees can reach mutually beneficial agreements on compensation.
- Long-term Perspective: Employers are encouraged to adopt a long-term view, recognizing that demonstrating concern for employee welfare fosters a better working environment, benefiting both staff and employers.
Leave Options for Unforeseen Absences
- Annual Leave: Employers may permit employees to use annual leave to cover unforeseen absences, ensuring they receive compensation for the affected days.
- Unpaid Leave: The possibility of taking unpaid leave during extreme weather events is subject to agreement between the employer and the employee.
Roster Changes and Emergency Situations
- Short Notice Roster Changes: In normal circumstances, employees are entitled to at least 24 hours’ notice of roster changes. However, exceptions may apply during extreme weather events.
- Emergency Closure: Employers facing emergency closures due to events like floods may implement a ‘layoff.’ During a layoff, employers are not obligated to pay employees, who may seek financial assistance through Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance.
Terms and Conditions of Employment
Employers may have included policies in employment contracts to address severe weather events. These may include:
- Taking annual leave to avoid employee loss of earnings
- Agreement to work back lost hours/days
- Alternative opening days or hours where the business is usually
- Remote work options
- Working from an alternative location
- Local Resolution: Employers and employees are encouraged to resolve issues at the employment level.
- Formal Complaints: If local resolution fails, employees can file complaints under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 or the Payment of Wages Act 1991 with the Workplace Relations Commission.
- Mediation and Adjudication: The Commission may seek mediation if both parties agree; otherwise, an Adjudication Officer will investigate the complaint.
Understanding and addressing the challenges associated with employee absence during extreme weather events requires careful consideration of contractual obligations, leave options and proactive communication between employers and employees. By adopting a fair and flexible approach, businesses can navigate these challenges while maintaining positive working relationships.