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Should and can we legally mandate that employers observe red weather alerts?

  • 17-10-2017 8:37pm
    Registered Users Posts: 17,797 ✭✭✭✭

    If anyone was following the Ophelia threads over at the Weather forum, you'll have seen a great many posts describing total confusion regarding work commitments following the issuing of a red alert for all areas - some employers observing, some insisting on business as usual, others taking the piss altogether and telling workers that they would get a text at 6 / 7 AM to let them know whether to come in (which, for some concerned commuters, would have been too late to make that decision as to whether or not to leave the house).

    During Hurricane Irma in the United States, this was a recurring theme for Floridans ignoring the forecasts and evacuation orders - worrying about being docked pay or even putting their jobs at risk by not turning up.

    In this context, two questions - ideological and legal. Firstly, should we mandate that employers observe red weather alerts in their area or for employees whose commute necessitates travel through an area under such an alert, by banning them from penalising, docking, or in any way reprimanding employees who miss work because of a red weather alert? Should we in fact mandate that businesses in an area under such an alert close down for the duration of the alert, so as to ensure no uncertainty or anxiety among employees about whether or not they will suffer adverse consequences as a result of staying home until the alert is over?

    Would there be an effective difference between mandating the closure of businesses, and simply mandating that individual employees not be penalised for observing the alert? Could the latter approach lead to the kind of "Ah well, weather or not, your colleague managed to make it in, so..." accusations for those who do observe alerts?

    What is the correct approach here?

    And secondly, if we were to take any of these approaches to mandating one way or another that weather alerts are taken seriously by employers and that nobody is asked to risk their life for their job during such an alert, would this be legal both under the Irish constitution and under EU law? Are there legal problems with this?

    I'm essentially talking about iron-cladding weather alerts in the same way that maternity leave is iron clad. I couldn't believe the number of people even in the southwest where the storm was originally predicted to make landfall who were freaking out about losing pay or even being fired because their employer was considering staying open despite the red alert.

    Should, and can, laws be put in place to take this into account and ensure that this situation is not repeated if and when the next extreme and life-threatening weather event is forecast for Ireland - and if so, what approach should these laws take?


  • Registered Users Posts: 27,272 ✭✭✭✭blanch152

    Well, I am pro-choice within reason, so similarly to giving women the right to choose within limits what they can do with their body, I am happy to give the right to choose to both employers and employees.

    I think the current situation was fair enough. Personal responsibility rather than nanny state interference meant most people made the right decision.

  • Registered Users Posts: 78,308 ✭✭✭✭Victor

    It's not that simple. There were a lot of workers that were needed yesterday. Not just emergency services, but also utilities, hospitals, care services, security (someone used the storm to steal a statue).

    Yesterday further highlights how unsustainable it is to having large numbers of people living in the countryside.

  • Registered Users Posts: 14,491 ✭✭✭✭elperello

    As a start each business should have a policy for situations like that.
    Hopefully we won't have another any time soon so there is time for a bit of calm discussion between unions, management etc.