Council workers told ‘set aside holidays’ or risk losing wages if new ‘Beast from the East’ hits

Council workers have been advised to start saving their annual leave in case a large snowstorm hits. Picture: SWNS
Council workers have been advised to start saving their annual leave in case a large snowstorm hits. Picture: SWNS
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EAST Lothian Council workers who live in the countryside are being advised to set aside their holidays to cover absences from work or face losing pay if another Beast from the East hits.

A revised staffing policy for severe weather absences warns East Lothian Council will continue to dock the pay of workers who cannot get to work if storms hit.

But it suggests those who live in rural communities “may wish to consider holding back some of their annual leave for events such as adverse weather”.

Councillor Jeremy Findlay, whose ward covers North Berwick coastal communities, told a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Tuesday that he had a “moral problem” with staff being penalised because they lived in rural areas.

Raising his concerns about the revised policy, Mr Findlay told cabinet members: “I have a moral problem with someone who lives in the rural county where roads are under two feet of snow being adversely affected when they are being told by police they should not travel and as a result their wages will be docked.”

However the council’s chief executive Angela Leitch told councillors that if staff could not fulfill their contract the council “could not pay them”.

Anger over the way East Lothian Council handled last year’s severe snow storms led councillors to overturn its long-standing policy on absences and agree to pay workers who had been unable to get into work.

Many workers were stunned to be told that, while police were warning people to stay at home, the council was continuing with its established policy advising them they would have to take time in lieu or unpaid leave to cover the time they were unable to work during the crisis.

While other local authorities, such as City of Edinburgh Council, took to social media to assure staff they would be paid if they were unable to work during the Wednesday and Thursday of the red weather warnings last March, East Lothian Council repeated its advice that workers should report to work if it was “safe to do so”, or attend the nearest council office or suitable premises, or work from home or other suitable locations.

Following a review of its actions, wages were reinstated for those who missed work during red weather warnings and the policy was reviewed.

However the revised policy, which was approved by Cabinet this week, showed little change except adding in advice for rural workers to set aside holidays.

Councillor WIllie Innes, council leader, said he expected that should another Beast from the East hit the county, councillors would once again step in to ensure wages were not docked.

He said: “It is impossible to have a policy that pleases everyone. Last year members took the decision to pay staff – I would hope if it happened again we would consider making similar commitments.”

The cabinet approved the new policy.

Marie Sharp , Local Democracy Reporting Service

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