Council staff only paid for one day off during snow

A snowplough in Selkirk on Thursday.
A snowplough in Selkirk on Thursday.

During the snow storms of last week, Scottish Borders Council repeated several times daily that people should not travel unless absolutely necessary.

It turns out that it was certainly necessary for their employees, as bosses at Newtown have said they will only pay their workers for one day off, unless they were able to work from an alternative location.

Any additional days off have to be made up through flexi-time or by taking days from their annual holiday entitlement.

It’s a move that has angered local MSP Christine Grahame, who said: “The recent red weather warning was in place because the conditions represented a real danger to life and the advice was clear that travel should be avoided.

“Where employees can work from home, and so forth, this is an ideal arrangement, however, there will always be employees who cannot.

“These employees should not be in a position where they have to choose between losing annual leave or flexi-time entitlement, or attempting to travel in in extremely treacherous conditions.

“SBC’s position is essentially incentivising travel during a red weather warning and I find that completely unacceptable.

“I have asked the Deputy First Minster John Swinney to raise this issue with COSLA and I have written to Tracey Logan, chief executive of SBC, to urge it to reconsider its position on this.”

Mrs Grahame added that neighbouring council Midlothian is paying all employees full pay if unable to work due to the recent adverse conditions, in particular the period of the Red warning, and that SBHA had already reviewed its original decision (similar to SBC’s) and is now paying all employees over that period.

But it seems the council is sticking to its original decision.

Council chief executive, Tracey Logan, said: “Thousands of our staff were able to work during the severe weather, including many who worked tirelessly to minimise the impact of these horrendous conditions as much as possible.

“Our position was similar to many other councils across the country, who like us, have a comprehensive policy in place for staff to deal with these types of severe weather situations.

“This is in place to ensure we can keep essential services running, while at the same time treat staff fairly and equally – those who could work and those who couldn’t.

“On the first day of these types of events, we are flexible in terms of allowing staff to go home and credit this as a normal working day. After that, we ask staff to report as normal for critical services such as home care, roads and environmental services, so we can protect our vulnerable people and respond to the emergency.

“We were very grateful to be able to call upon our ranger staff, Lothian 4x4s and mountain rescue teams who brought staff to work and took them to remoter areas to help vulnerable people or those needing home care and medical attention.

“Other staff were advised that they could report to their nearest work place or work from home where possible.

“This covers a large proportion of our staff who will be paid as normal. Teachers were expected to be able to work from home on things like lesson plans and exam support.

“If all these options fail, we ask staff to use flexi-time or leave to cover absences after the first day. We also ensure that we are flexible in allowing staff to make up the time over a reasonable period.

“In some cases staff chose to take leave instead of working at home or in a different location, for instance to spend time with family.

“It would be unreasonable to make payments to all staff in an unconsidered way.

“We are looking to explore and extend possibilities in the future for staff to work in their home town or village by aligning them with community resilience groups to undertake community work, for example helping to clear paths and roads, or check on elderly and vulnerable residents.”