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Who pays when the workplace is snowed under?

Yesterday's snow storm havoc brought issues Canterbury employers and staff have been dealing with for 18 months.

Chris Hutching
Thu, 07 Jun 2012

What were the responsibilities of employers and staff during yesterday’s snow storms in Christchurch?

Duncan Cotterill lawyer, Susan Townsend, and her PR advisers were on the case early in the day with a memorandum to media and clients offering advice.

She told NBR ONLINE that safety was the major consideration, and employers had to ensure there were no unnecessary risks to staff.

If employers chose to close their place of work or cease operations (e.g. driving) for health and safety reasons it was usually accepted that they will pay staff, she said.

But the situation is less clear when the workplace continues to operate but staff may find difficulty in attending because of child care problems or blocked roads.

In these situations they may be required to take a day of their annual leave.

“There have been all sorts of these issues in Canterbury over the past 18 months which many employers have had to deal with,” she said.

A few inquires by NBR reveal that the situation in many workplaces yesterday was less clear cut.

In some organisations, staff, including senior managers, simply melted away.

The same thing occurred during the most severe earthquakes – some stalwarts continued to man the ramparts while others disappeared to take care of family and property, or because they were too shaken up.

Some staff disappeared for weeks, with and without the permission of employers, who were often facing the same problems and tended to take a compassionate view.

In most cases, those who disappeared were never penalised and those who stayed at their posts were never rewarded, although some received letters of gratitude from the likes of Civil Defence.

In many instances, those who stayed the course simply rose to the occasion through a sense of duty and public responsibility.

It was easier for those whose homes were not badly affected or did not have children to care for.

Chris Hutching
Thu, 07 Jun 2012
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Who pays when the workplace is snowed under?