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Seasonal advice from Acas

Published: 23/12/13

As we all know preparation is key and Acas has provided some very timely guidance for employers:

Annual holiday entitlement

  • At least the statutory holiday entitlement (5.6 weeks) must be given to workers -employers may give more under contractual term.
  • Part time worker are entitled to the same amount of holiday (pro rota) as full time colleagues.
  • Employers can set the times when workers can take their leave - for example a Christmas shut down.
  • If employment ends workers have the right to be paid for any leave due but not taken.
  • There is no legal right to paid public holidays.

Once an employee starts work details of holidays and holiday pay entitlement should be found in the employee's written contract, where there is one, or a written statement of employment particulars given to employees by their employer.

Note: The written statement is required by law and must be given to employees by the employer no later than two months after the start of employment.

Most workers - whether part-time or full-time - are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave. Additional annual leave may be agreed as part of a worker's contract. A week of leave should allow workers to be away from work for a week - i.e. it should be the same amount of time as the working week. If a worker does a five-day week, he or she is entitled to 28 days leave. However, for a worker who works 6 days a week the statutory entitlement is capped at 28 days. If they work a three-day week, the entitlement is 16.8 days leave. Employers can set the times that workers take their leave, for example for a Christmas shut down. If a worker's employment ends, they have a right to be paid for the leave due and not taken.

Public holidays

There is no legal right to paid leave for public holidays; any right to paid time off for these holidays depends on the terms of a worker's contract. Paid public holidays can be counted as part of the statutory 5.6 weeks of holiday.

Travel disruption due to bad weather

When the weather makes it difficult to travel, employers and employees should consider how this could impact on the workplace.

Key points to remember

Employees are not automatically entitled to pay if unable to get to work because of bad weather

There is no legal right for staff to be paid by an employer for travel delays (unless the travel itself is constituted as working time or in some situations where the employer provides the transport). However, employers may have contractual, collective or custom and practice arrangements in place for this. Discretionary payment for travel disruption might also be of use. Some organisations offer discretionary payments for travel disruption or have their own informal arrangements for this purpose. Such arrangements are normally contained in staff contracts or handbooks or through collective agreements.

Be flexible where possible

A more flexible approach to matters such as working hours and location may be effective if possible. The handling of bad weather and travel disruption can be an opportunity for an employer to enhance staff morale and productivity by the way it is handled for example is there opportunity to work from home. Think about other issues such as alternative working patterns or who can cover at short notice.

Use information technology

Information technology could be useful in enabling a business to run effectively if many employees are absent from work, for example using laptops or smartphones.

Deal with issues fairly

Even if businesses are damaged by the effects of absent workers they should still ensure that any measures they take are carried out according to proper and fair procedure. This will help maintain good, fair and consistent employment relations and help prevent complaints to employment tribunals.

Plan ahead

Consider reviewing your policy and thinking about how you handle future scenarios. It would be best to put an "adverse weather" or 'journey into work' policy into place that deals with the steps employees are required to take to try to get into work on time and how the business will continue if they cannot. You need to decide how to deal with lateness and what will happen with regard to pay. Having such a policy should mean there is much less scope for confusion and disagreement.

How can staff keep difficulties to a minimum?

These are points that your employees will need to consider:

Think about how you plan to get into work. Trains, buses and trams might be operating reduced timetables or be running earlier or later than normal. Car and bicycle travel may be delayed by road closures and slower driving.

Have you arranged an alternative route or travel method to get in and get home? Have you considered the benefit of giving yourself a little extra commute time?

Think about what arrangements you have in place if your child cannot get to school, your normal childcare provider is unavailable or if your child's school is closed. Do you have a practical back-up arrangement?

Make sure you know how to get in touch with your employer if you are unable to get into work and that you have a means of communicating with them if you are going to be delayed.

If you are affected by the weather, is there some way you can work around this or keep the difficulty to a minimum? Think about if you have the option to work from home, alter your hours or if there is anything else you could discuss with your employer to help the situation.

Consider how your employer can deal with your workload in your absence. Can you let your manager know where everything is with a phone call? Do you need to let your employer know if any deadlines are at risk?

If some staff manage to get into work but others can not but still get paid is that fair?

Employees are not legally entitled to receive payment if not at work, some employers realise adverse weather doesn't happen often and may be flexible where possible. It can be frustrating for those who can get to work while others can't but not all situations are the same and it probably won't go unnoticed by managers.

What happens if the schools are closed and parents can not come to work?

In emergency situations an employee is entitled to take unpaid time off to look after dependants, although this would not normally apply to a situation where the employee was required to look after their children as a result of not having any childcare arrangements. In extreme weather conditions this could be seen as an emergency situation.

It's important to point out that this is Time Off for Dependants and as such an employee is entitled to as much unpaid time off as a tribunal decides is reasonable to make alternative arrangements for childcare. In other words, the right to time off may vary as per each individual’s circumstance. Whilst some employers may offer this as holiday that is only with agreement from the employee and only if the employer wants to offer/accept it.

As an employer you may wish to see if some staff could work from home.

Acas also offers advice on such things handling stress in the workplace and religious beliefs – your responsibility as an employer; other issues that could be particularly relevant to this time of year.

They run a free helpline on 08457 47 47 47 and have a helpline webpage with further information.


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