What should employers do if remote staff have a power cut?
With storms causing all sorts of issues in the UK, power cuts have become a real risk for businesses. So what do you do if your employee who’s working from home experiences a power shortage?
Power shortages can happen at any time in the day and usually last for a few hours. Depending which members of staff are affected, at best it can be an inconvenience but at worst, it can affect operations and bring your business to a grinding halt.
How should employees work in these conditions?
What approach you use for your employees depends on a couple of factors:
- How long the shortage might last
- Your employment contracts with your workers
How long will it take to get power back?
A power cut that’s under an hour has a very different impact than a power cut that lasts for a whole working day. Although it can be difficult to know in these situations, try to gauge how long it could take to get the power back up by following the local news.
If your employee should get the power back sooner rather than later, they could realistically work the time up the next day, which might be the best option. If it’s going to be a few hours, then relocating to a safe location where they can work might be best – if it’s possible.
What’s in the contract?
The key to this matter is what have you outlined in your employment contract and/or homeworking policy? You may have set up a plan on what will happen in emergency situations such as this, which you should follow.
Referring back to this contract in your communications will help manage employee expectations and cover your actions from a HR point of view as well.
How do you pay your employees when they can’t work due to power cuts?
Usually, your employee is entitled to receive pay for the hours they missed.
If the staff member can’t work through no fault of their own, and you don’t pay them, this could be considered an unauthorised deduction from wages and a breach of contract. That’s something an employee can take you to an employment tribunal for, so make sure you get it right.
The exceptions to this are if you’ve put put something else in your employee contract, or if you invoke a contractual lay off/short time clause which provides for a reduction in pay when the employer isn’t able to provide any work for their staff to do. This is usually invoked when the whole business is affected however, not just a few workers.
Tips for future-proofing against power cuts
Plan and prepare
If you know some bad weather is heading in the direction of your employees, make a plan. Ask your employees to charge their devices and download or print out documents they can work on manually incase they lose access to the internet. You might even want to buy a broadband USB stick, which can be used on the go if the internet is down.
Arrange a back-up work space
Encourage your employees to consider their alternative working arrangements in the event this happens. This could be:
- A friend or family member’s house
- WiFi cafe
- Hot desking
- Going to the office
Update your contracts
If you’ve not done so already, now is a good time to update your homeworking policy and/or employment contracts to ensure situations like this are covered.
As always, let your employees know what you intend to do about situations like this to manage expectations. If possible, let them know the policy before anything happens, such as in their induction, team meetings or annual training, so it doesn’t come as a shock in the midst of what could be a stressful time.