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Bugs and Blizzards Bring Bosses Problems

Whatever else is going on in the world, for most bosses, sickness bugs and bad weather are more immediate threats to business at this time of year.

Whatever else is going on in the world, for most bosses, sickness bugs and bad weather are more immediate threats to business at this time of year.

With more cold weather likely, Joanne Stronach, an employment law solicitor from Burnetts, is warning business owners and managers to make sure they deal sympathetically with issues like illness and problems travelling to work otherwise they could find themselves facing grievances, long-term sickness absences or even Tribunals.

Joanne said, “Staff illness often increases during the winter. Even so, employers mustn’t be tempted to pressurize sick employees to return to work too early or force them to visit their GP for a sick note if they can self certify.”

An employee can self certify illness for the first seven days of any bout of illness (it may be more depending on individual contracts). A free self certification form is available from http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/forms/sc2.pdf

Joanne also recommends that employers are wary about forcing employees to come in to work during hazardous winter conditions. She said, “If an employee is absent or late due to the weather conditions, employers should consider whether this is reasonable and whether the employee has made a reasonable effort to attend work. Although many employers will allow absence with pay when employees are absent from work due to bad weather, it’s not always practical, but business owners should take legal advice if they are considering withholding pay for any reason”.

Finally, Joanne is warning bosses to make sure temperatures in workplaces meet legal requirements because if the temperature falls below certain levels, workers are entitled to leave the workplace. Although there are no laws setting a minimum temperature, in their Approved Code of Practice, the Heath and Safety Executive states that working temperatures should be at least 16°C if the work is deskbound and at least 13°C if the work is physical. If a worker is working outside there is no minimum temperature but all outdoor workstations should, ‘so far as reasonably practicable, be protected from adverse weather.’

About the author

Joanne Stronach profile photo

Joanne Stronach

Joanne Stronach is joint Head of Burnetts' Employment Law & HR team.

Published: Wednesday 19th December 2012
Categorised: Employment

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