“Bad weather shut my business! Do I still pay staff?”

Why does the weather cause the UK so many problems? It’s not like we get tornadoes, wildfires or any other type of major natural disaster. Instead, we spend most of our year beneath damp, drab, drizzly skies.

But every now and then, the weather turns it up a notch.

High winds, heavy rain, perhaps a dusting of what British Rail infamously dubbed the wrong kind of snow and what happens? Society comes to a near-halt (while neighbouring nations like Iceland, Norway and Sweden look on in bemusement).

Our infrastructure is so ill-equipped at dealing with a bit of bad weather that it’s no surprise when staff can’t make it into work or a business can’t open, causing a massive financial hit.

Yet I’ve found that too few business owners have a plan ready for bad weather. Which is why I’m writing this article…

Read on for answers to the three biggest bad weather questions we hear and find out how to prepare your business now rather than pay the price later.

“Some of my staff say they can’t make it in. What do I do?”

Remember, as long as your employees aren’t off because they’re sick or on annual leave, they should still come to work. In theory. Because of course, it’s not always that simple.

If it’s too dangerous for some people to travel, they shouldn’t risk it. But it isn’t easy to define ‘dangerous’.

When the roads are closed, the schools are shut, and the local authority is advising people not to travel, then it’s probably too dangerous to drive to work.

But when the roads are clear and all but one of your workers make it into work easily, then you have reasons to be suspicious.

You can’t force a worker to come in, but you can investigate the reason for their absence. If you decide they took advantage of the bad weather to take a day off, then it’s in your right to discipline or even dismiss them.

Make sure you have evidence to back up your decision, though. If you dismiss an employee for not coming to work and they make a claim against you, it may fall to an employment tribunal judge to decide who was in the right.

“What do I do if my business has to close?”

Sometimes the weather is so bad that you need to close your business for a short time. And when your business is shut, your employees can’t come in.

But that doesn’t mean work has to stop. Some of your employees might have the flexibility to work from home or from another site.

It’s useful to have a backup plan to keep staff working when bad weather forces your business to close. You should include this plan in your severe weather policy (more on this shortly). 

And for those that can’t work from home or at a different site? Well, you might have to pay their wages anyway…

“Do I still pay staff if they can’t work or we close?”

If your staff can’t make it into work, then you don’t have to pay them—no matter how bad the weather gets.

But, if you need to close your business due to bad weather and your employees can’t work, then you do need to pay them.

You may have the right to ‘lay-off’ employees when you shut your business. This might seem like an easy answer to your problems, but be careful. Lay-offs are a complicated area of employment law.

Think about including a clause in your employees’ contracts that allows you to make temporary lay-offs on reduced pay. If this clause isn’t already there, you need to negotiate a contract change ahead of any bad weather.

Remember, employees with a month or more service who you place on lay-off are not paid full pay, but must still receive statutory guarantee pay.

How to prepare your business

Let’s face it, the UK transport network isn’t prepared for extreme weather. That’s why your business needs to be.

The first place to start is with a severe weather and travel disruption policy. Take a look at this free template.

It’s a great tool for writing your own policy and covers important points such as:

  • Employees' responsibilities
  • What happens if you close the workplace
  • Your working from home policy

Like all templates, it needs tweaking to suit your business. So, once you’ve taken a look, speak to a Peninsula HR expert about writing your severe weather policy. Call 0800 028 2420

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