Top Tips for handling the impact of adverse weather conditions on your business

January 4, 2013

It’s the season for heavy downpours, blustery gusts, snow showers and frosty mornings, all of which are nothing more than we would expect of our weather at this time of year. However in recent times we have started to see the elements around us becoming more extreme, so much so, that they have started to affect the practicalities of actually getting a day’s work done.  As the recent floods have proved to us once again, when our weather is wild, it can quickly become the cause of chaos, and it seems that there is no end in sight to the recurrence of these climatic vagaries.

So what can you do to prepare for those occasions when adverse weather conditions start to impact on your business, and what are your options for dealing with those employees who get snowed in,  flooded or otherwise cut off? Follow our top tips below, and you should be well placed to minimise any disruption to your business.

Preparation

  • Implementing an adverse weather policy – implementing a policy gives you an opportunity to develop a strategy for dealing with major disruptions, in advance of them actually happening. You will have more time to consider how best to ensure business continuity, meaning that you can find the solution that works best for your business. Implementing a policy will also give your managers time to understand their responsibilities so that they can deal with employees consistently and will help to set employee expectations as well.
  • Checking your employment contracts – outside of having a specific policy, it is possible that your employees’ employment contracts already deal with these situations. If so, you will normally be bound by what is stated in the contract, so it is worth checking whether there are any provisions that deal with pay or other arrangements if an employee is unable to attend work due to adverse weather conditions.

For those employees who don’t make it in

  • Insisting upon unpaid leave – aside from situations where the contract provides otherwise, employees are only entitled to be paid for work they have done. Therefore, if an employee can’t make it into work, you are not obliged to pay them. So any days lost due to adverse weather can be classed as unpaid leave or pay can be deducted as appropriate. Although at first glance this may seem like the most attractive solution from a financial perspective, before enforcing this route, do give some thought to the impact of any negative publicity on your business and how this stance would affect employee relations, as you will need loyal customers and a motivated workforce to make up for the time already lost. As an employer you can use your discretion to provide paid leave, or consider whether there are any other mutually agreeable alternatives.
  • Classifying absence as holiday – you could agree with your employees that they will take the time off as holiday leave, provided they have sufficient accrued but untaken entitlement remaining. 
  • Making up the hours - employees who do not want to take annual leave or unpaid leave could be asked to make up the lost hours on other days. If there is a flexi-time scheme in place, it may already envisage this type of solution. However, even where there is no such scheme, you could reach an agreement with each individual employee about the time they need to make up.
  • Working from home - if the type of work carried out by your employees could be done from home, it would be reasonable to expect them to do that, if they have the necessary facilities available to them. It may be worth thinking in advance about which employees this would apply to and what facilities they would need. These arrangements can then be put in place early, meaning that the employees are set up and ready to go, should home work be required.  
  • Closing the workplace – if you decide to close a workplace, you may be able to send employees to another location or ask them to work from home. However, if that is not practicable, any salaried employees with contractually agreed hours will still have to be paid for the time during which the workplace is closed, if they would otherwise be ready and willing to work.
  • Consistency counts – whichever approach you decide to take, treating employees consistently is the key to getting the best reaction from your staff, so bear this in mind when taking decisions regarding pay or other arrangements.

What about those who do attend

  • Recognising employees’ efforts - it is important to ensure that those employees who do turn up for work feel that their efforts have been recognised, particularly if you have decided to provide paid leave to those who didn’t make it in.
  • Maintaining Health and Safety standards - employers are responsible for making sure that work premises are safe “so far as is reasonably practicable”. Therefore you should take measures to mitigate any risks to safety caused by extreme weather (such as snow, ice or flooding). It is recommended that employers make arrangements to minimise the danger of slips and falls, for example by gritting, clearing snow, draining surface water and temporarily closing off any areas or routes that have become dangerous.

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