Friday, 18 February 2022 13:25

WFH Pay-Back

As I write, storm Eunice is making her presence felt in the form of squally showers and strong winds, with gusts predicted to reach up to 90mph. Doubtless you will already be aware of the Red Alert issued by the Met Office for areas along the Severn Estuary which means the weather is a risk to life; and the amber warning in place for the rest of the country.

With many schools and some businesses closed owing to the dangers presented by storm Eunice, we find ourselves amidst an extraordinary event and in a place where we can practice some of the lessons we have learned from the Covid pandemic.

The prevalence of Working from Home (WFH) and hybrid working that has been a side-effect of the pandemic, have had a mixed reception from businesses. Some have adopted it entirely, saving on expensive office rental costs, whilst others have either begrudgingly accepted it as part of changing businesses practices, or welcomed it with open arms, recognising an improvement in employee wellbeing and engagement, and ultimately, productivity.

In light of the “Essential Travel Only” warnings issued by the Met Office, even those organisations that have reluctantly ceded to allow their employees to work from home, if only partially, are able to continue working as normal today; in conditions under which historically, they may have had to close. Equally, with schools closed, arranging emergency childcare for working parents is less of an issue as they can still be present at home to monitor the kids whilst continuing to work.

Pre-Covid, standard practice in severe weather would mean that if employees were unable to make it to work but the workplace was open then they might have to take holiday or unpaid leave to cover their absence. In cases where employees could present themselves for work but the conditions meant the premises was unable to open, staff would still expect to be paid.

Following the pandemic however, there is much more emphasis on the employer’s role in the wellbeing of its workforce. Therefore, in cases where working from home isn’t an option, such as in a manufacturing environment, even where the premises is able to open, we might now expect the organisation to tell its staff to stay at home but still pay them as normal, rather than risk their health travelling into work.

Lay-off remains an option however and we usually see lay-off clauses in employment contracts in the building industry so that employers can minimise their losses when workers are unable to carry out their jobs because of things like bad weather. Lay-off clauses were highlighted when Covid first struck and the country went into lockdown, but the need to invoke them was quickly negated by the introduction of the Furlough Scheme.

A storm, such as today’s, would be grounds for laying staff off, but firstly, you must have a relevant clause present in your contracts in order to implement lay-offs. And secondly, you might want to weigh-up the cost benefit against any loss of goodwill you might experience from your staff, especially with the difficulties in recruitment businesses are currently experiencing.

Ultimately, we hope you stay safe and today is incident free for you, but if you require any support with HR & Employment Law issues, as well as people strategy and Leadership and Management challenges, we’re here to help on 01452 331331 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 793 times Last modified on Friday, 18 February 2022 14:35


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