Don’t get snowed under: Reacting to the latest bout of winter weather

As the UK begins to recover from the latest deluge of snow and ice, employers may choose this opportunity to adjust their approach to severe weather in the future by altering existing business practices.

A logical first step would be for employers to review their current policies to ensure they remain fit for purpose in the face of severe winter weather. In light of this, some employers may opt to introduce a standalone severe weather policy as a way of clearly outlining their stance on a host of different aspects. Importantly, these policies can be used to remind staff that they are still generally expected to attend work during instances of severe weather, as well as who to inform if they will be unable to do so for whatever reason. Introducing reliable policies will be a great way for employers to maintain order and safeguard against the effects of winter weather in the future.

Whilst HR professionals are often expected to juggle a number of different responsibilities, predicting when and where severe weather will occur may be a stretch too far. With this being said, employers would benefit from being as proactive as possible in informing staff when severe weather is forecasted, enabling them to plan accordingly. Although it may be hard to determine ahead of time if business operations will be suspended for a period due to the weather, staff should be informed with as much notice as possible if a temporary closure is to take place.

Even when businesses are able to remain open, an influx of snow and ice can often play havoc with workers’ daily commutes and present employers with a staffing problem. Employers should therefore think about how they treat staff who are unable to attend work and whether withholding pay in these circumstances is the best solution. As an alternative approach, employers may wish to explore the possibility of allowing staff to work from home if their duties can be completed remotely. This would be especially beneficial for those that may be adversely affected by the weather, such as disabled staff or individuals who have their public transport cancelled.

Employers may also benefit from evaluating how they treat staff, who can physically attend work but are prevented from doing so due to emergency care situations such as when schools unexpectedly shut in times of severe weather and parents must stay off work to look after their children. It is important for employers to understand that employees have a statutory right to take unpaid time off to care for a dependant in these type of circumstances and they should not be treated less favourably for asserting this statutory right, even when the workplace remains open.

Although it may seem low on the list of priorities as we head tentatively into Spring, employers would do well to plan ahead and mitigate the disruptive impact severe weather will have on business operations the next time around.

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