Council bosses urged to rethink ‘Dickensian’ staff advice to save holidays for snow

COUNCIL chiefs were last night urged to re-think a “Dickensian” plan to dock staff pay if they fail to get to work during another Beast from the East storm.

Bosses at East Lothian Council have been blasted for urging workers who live in the countryside to set aside their own holiday days to cover absences from work caused by bad weather or face losing pay.

Details of the threat emerged in a new policy for severe weather absences which tells staff they should work from home or at another council site which is safe to get to. Employees can use holiday allowance to avoid loss of pay, although it was admitted some staff may already have used theirs up.

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No other local authority in the Lothians has advised workers to set aside holidays to cover for when they are trapped at home because of weather warnings.

After the 'Beast from the East' hit, places were still covered in snow and causing disrtuption. Pic: Lisa Ferguson

Details of the plan outraged SNP MSP Emma Harper, who said: “This is a Dickensian approach from the Labour-run council who are treating their employees with contempt.

“Asking workers not to take their holiday entitlement is a blatant attack on their terms and conditions. “

She continued: “If we’re hit by another Beast from the East, staff shouldn’t be forced to choose between ignoring police warnings and losing wages. East Lothian Council must urgently rethink this approach.”

Unison Scotland’s Danny Phillips added: “We have not agreed to this policy. Workers shouldn’t be asked to travel to work if police are advising not to drive to work and only travel in case of emergency. We are asking the council to take a commonsense approach. It is unfair against the workers.

“No one should be penalised. Unison will work with the workers to get a more common sense approach to this policy.”

But East Lothian chief executive Angela Leitch insisted: “The updated policy contains additional advice for staff on what to do in such unusual circumstances.

“This includes working remotely or being deployed near to where they live as an alternative.

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“It is important for employees to be familiar with these plans, which enable the council to undertake the valuable tasks our communities depend on, such as clearing roads, keeping pavements clear and providing essential care to vulnerable adults and older people.”

Donald MacKinnon of Law At Work said employers were not obliged to pay staff who cannot make it to their 
workplace. The option remains open for employees to request to take annual leave on days they cannot attend the office and for their employer to grant this. It is only when the employer makes the decision to close the office that they generally become void of an obligation to pay them.”