Law firm's extreme weather warning for employers as big freeze arrives | Knutsford Times

Law firm’s extreme weather warning for employers as big freeze arrives

By on December 1, 2010

A KNUTSFORD law firm says business should act now to safeguard themselves against staff headaches caused by the freezing weather.

Mace & Jones is urging employers to move quickly as hazardous snow and ice blankets much of the UK, with the North West expected to be hit by similar severe weather conditions over the coming weeks.

Martin Edwards, Head of Employment at Mace & Jones, said that the heavy snowfall in January this year – which led to thousands of North West businesses shutting down or operating with skeleton staff – should have been a wake-up call for employers.

He said: “Many businesses simply did not have plans in place to cover such extreme weather conditions and were ill equipped to deal with staff absences and office closures.

“Employers should give urgent attention to ‘severe weather’ issues, such as workplace closures, staff absences, working from home, disruption to transport services and road closures, and disciplinary sanctions for sham ‘snowball’ days.”

Mr Edwards added that even in extreme weather conditions, employees are obliged to go into work. “Therefore if a member of staff cannot make it in an employer can withhold a day’s wage,” he said. “However, employees should not feel pressured to risk their safety to go into work, so common sense is advised, and if an employee has exhausted all travel options then working from home should be considered as a reasonable option.”

School closures can also be problematic for businesses if staff members cannot organise childcare. In these cases, Mr Edwards said there are statutory rules which allow parents to be absent from work if there is an ‘unexpected disruption to childcare’, but that this should be followed consistently by employers.

He added: “Unfortunately some people will seek to take advantage of bad weather and their employer’s good will. This could be a disciplinary matter if a business wishes to pursue cases of potential of abuse, however after the initial conditions subside employers could state that any further time off will be taken as holiday – employees may then suddenly start finding ways of getting in.”

Mace & Jones is also warning employers that failure to properly grit work premises affected by snow, ice and frost, risks compensation claims from staff or public who fall on slippy surfaces. The firm’s personal injury lawyer Jeremy Bradshaw said that falls account for more than a third of accidents at work.

“Car parks should be gritted or salted to reduce snow and ice coverage,” he said. “Extra care should be taken over places where there is a greater risk of danger, such as steps or slopes. Care should also be taken to prevent slipping in instances of transfer of snow or water off shoes onto polished floors as people enter buildings. Absorbent mats should be placed inside doors to collect water off shoes. Regular checks should be made to ensure that the mats haven’t become too damp and are failing to absorb the water.”

Mr Bradshaw said employers or building managers should keep documentary evidence to show that such procedures are not only in place but are being carried out.

“Failure to carry out these precautions will render an employer or building manger liable to compensate the injured person,” he warned. “The lack of any documentary evidence may mean that an employer or building manager can’t satisfy a court that systems were in place to prevent the injury resulting in them being found liable and having to pay compensation.”

For more information on Mace & Jones’ employment services, email martin.edwards@maceandjones.co.uk or ring any member of the Mace & Jones employment and HR  team in Liverpool: 0151 236 8989; Manchester: 0161 214 0500;  or Knutsford: 01565 634234.

For further information on personal injury contact Jeremy.Bradshaw@maceandjones.co.uk or any member of the Mace & Jones personal injury team in Liverpool: 0151 236 8989 Manchester: 0161 214 0500 Knutsford: 01565 634 234.

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