BORDERS MSP Christine Grahame has hit out at the treatment of Scottish Borders Council staff during last week’s adverse weather.

The local authority told employees they would only be given one day’s pay if they were unable to get into work over the three days of bad weather.

Any additional days’ absence would be expected to be taken using flexi time or holidays.

The SNP member for Tweeddale and Lauderdale said the policy was unfair as neighbouring Midlothian Council paid its staff in full.

She 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 to raise this issue with COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) and I have written to Tracey Logan, chief executive of SBC, to urge her to reconsider the position on this.”

But council bosses insist their stance was crucial “to keep essential services running”.

Ms Logan told us: “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 remote 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.”