Council asks staff to set aside holidays for snow days

Council workers in East Lothian have been urged to consider using their holiday allowance to avoid wages being docked for missing shifts due to adverse weather.

The council’s policy change comes after the local authority faced severe disruption from last year’s Beast from the East.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has hit out at the move, saying it is “grossly unfair” and a safety risk.

General secretary Grahame Smith said: “East Lothian Council’s policy flies in the face of good practice when dealing with severe weather.

“The Scottish Government and STUC Severe Weather Charter, developed following the Beast from the East last year, makes it clear that the health, safety and well-being of workers must be the priority and workers should not be put at risk by attending or attempting to attend their place of work.

“Employers should not incentivise workers to travel when it isn’t safe.

“Yet East Lothian Council’s policy does exactly that. It is grossly unfair and puts workers health at risk.”

Under the new guidance, staff are advised they should work from home or at a local authority site which is safe to get to in the case of adverse conditions.

Employees also have the option of using their holiday allowance to avoid loss of pay, although it was admitted some staff may already have used theirs up in such circumstances.

The council’s chief executive Angela Leitch said: “The updated policy reflects feedback following staff consultation and is consistent with the approach taken by many other public-sector organisations.

“It recognises that employees may periodically face difficulties in attending work during periods of severe weather, or some other adverse event.

“The policy makes it clear that staff should only travel if it is safe to do so.”

She added:  “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.

“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.”

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