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Christmas and Workplace Issues (Part 2)

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Q4: How should an employer address issues about an employee’s wellbeing?

Over the Christmas period, an employee’s wellbeing may be affected by the exacerbation of stress and/or depression. This may be for a number of reasons, including but not limited to COVID-19, but it is paramount for employers to identify any employee whose wellbeing is affected, as it is rare for an employee to openly talk about any personal problems they are experiencing.

As many individuals are also working from home, this will not also be easy to identify and therefore line managers should be in regular contact with their members of staff.

For employers, it is not easy to approach an employee who may be affected, and therefore it may be appropriate for them to arrange an opportunity to talk informally about their feelings.

Due to COVID-19, mental health is likely to be a massive issue for employers over the coming months, and therefore should consider having appropriate policies and procedures in place to address these issues.

Q5: What is the effect of adverse weather during Christmas?

Adverse weather during the Christmas period can present its own problems to an employer, especially when it results in travel disruption. Similarly power cuts may mean those working from home are unable to work remotely.

If an employee is unable to attend work or work from home due to adverse weather, they are not automatically entitled to paid leave. The same position applies to an employee who is late to work.

Most Contracts of Employment will confirm an employee is only entitled to be paid for work done. In these circumstances, an employer could withhold pay on days an employee fails to work.

In the absence of a contractual clause confirming employees will only be paid for work done or allowing an employer to make deductions from an employee’s pay, an employee could issue proceedings against their employer for unlawful deduction from wages if pay is withheld.

Some employers take a flexible approach, such as working hours or location of work, especially if this helps staff morale.

Even if an employer is affected by adverse weather, they should treat all disruptions to the workplace fairly and consistently in order to avoid any potential discrimination claim.

Q6: What happens if an employee is unable to attend work due to a school or nursery closure?

Often there is confusion when employees are unable to attend work as their child’s school or nursery has closed due to adverse weather or potentially due to COVID-19. In the circumstances, it is highly likely the employee will have to remain at home to care for their child.

Employers are obliged to allow employees to take to take reasonable unpaid time off work to deal with emergency situations in relation to their dependents. It is likely that school and nursery closures as a result of adverse weather will amount to an emergency situation. As such, employees should be entitled to take time off work.

Any time off work is unpaid unless the employer agrees otherwise, either expressly or implied through custom and practice. Alternatively an employee could take the time off work as annual leave.

To contact our Employment Team, email Head of Employment Sally