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January 5, 2010

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“Scrooge employers” are skating on thin ice in current weather conditions

The current adverse weather conditions have prompted the TUC to advise firms to allow staff to work from home where possible — but an employers’ group has warned that just a single day’s absence could cost businesses millions.

The lowest temperatures for 15 years and forecasts of up to 25cm of snow in some parts of the UK are focusing employers’ and workers’ minds on how to keep things going over the next few days. The TUC advises that while people should make every reasonable effort to get into work they should not attempt to travel if it is not safe to do so — making sure to let their bosses know if they are not going to make it in.

Employers in areas of the country already affected by the snowy conditions should have already advised their staff on what to do, while those in areas about to be hit should be doing so now. It makes sense for employers to allow staff who are able to do so to work from home rather than struggle with a lengthy commute, adds the TUC.

However, the Forum of Private Business (FPB), which represents thousands of small businesses across the UK, is warning that the costs of one day’s absence could be at least £230 million.

Said the FPB’s research manager, Tom Parry: “Employees make businesses grow and losing key staff because of the weather, even for just a day, is very damaging — particularly in the current economic climate.”

But the TUC’s Brendan Barber warned against the practice adopted by some firms during last year’s snowy spell of docking the pay of staff who failed to make it into work, or forcing them to take the time off as holiday. He said: “Scrooge bosses who dock pay and take away holiday are needlessly adding to their business woes by creating resentment among staff. Workers who have been prevented from getting to work despite their best efforts should not have to foot the bill for bad weather conditions.”

The best solution, concluded Barber, is for employers to have a ‘bad weather’ policy in place, so staff are clear as to what is expected of them, in terms of making an effort to get to work and contacting their line manager to inform them of the situation.

As for the home-working option, Tom Parry reminded employers that they do need to ensure that their employees’ homes “meet health and safety standards”. Current advice from the HSE on the subject of home-working is available to download by clicking here.

For a free-to-download guide to safe driving in

the current conditions, written by a snow and ice expert, click here to visit the Barbour website.

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