‘Legal grey areas’ for staff under Status Red alerts

By Eamon Quinn

The Status Red weather warnings have highlighted the “legal grey areas” for firms’ responsibility for their employers travelling to and from work in the coming days, businesses have said.

Head of business group Isme Neil McDonnell said he welcomed the regional instead of widespread Status Red warnings by Government and Met Éireann, but said that small firms, in particular, were left in a legal limbo in deciding the best course of action.

A business owner in Wexford has told the Irish Examiner she would likely have to shut food production lines because her experience with Storm Ophelia in October taught her that calling in staff was too risky in terms of liability.

Mr McDonnell said it was clear that expecting on-the-road sales staff or construction teams to work outside was not appropriate during the poor weather, but that firms faced many other “legal grey areas” despite the tracking of the predictable snow falls.

It becomes even more difficult for self-employed contractors and their staff who will be busy during the bad weather. Paying staff when a business is forced to shut, and when working from home is not an option, “becomes somewhat more difficult”, Isme said.

“The question of whether or not employees will need to be paid if they are unable to attend work due to severe weather conditions is proving difficult for many employers,” Isme said.

Isme favoured the regional warnings, rather than blanket State-wide warnings made

by the authorities

during the Ophelia storm. “We have to avoid the one size fits all” approach, Mr McDonnell said. Business groups SFA and Ibec said that businesses should provide clear “safety first” messages to their staff.

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