Managing absence due to bad weather

In the UK we are now approaching the time of the year when we are most likely to see bad weather affecting us, as the poor residents in Cumbria and Yorkshire have seen recently.

But what do employers need to do when adverse weather prevents staff from attending work?

The key to managing absence in these conditions is having a clear policy in place and the rest of this article should help you think about what needs to be included in the policy.

The very first thing you need to consider here is health and safety. Whilst it’s arguable whether you’re responsible for the safety of your staff while they're commuting to work, you shouldn’t put excessive pressure on people to attend work if it means that they put themselves or others in danger. You should ensure, however that they are aware that they are to use 'all reasonable endeavours' to get to work.

In the UK we usually get advance warning of heavy rains which may lead to flooding or heavy snowfall leading to treacherous driving conditions so make sure that you start to plan ahead how you’re going to keep the business going in such events.

Companies that have in some way embraced flexible working are likely to adapt more quickly to such disruptions as facilities are likely to be in place for working away from the main site. So considering flexible working outside of these times may give you an advantage.

Things to consider

  • Do you have offices or premises that people can work from if their usual office is closed?

  • Make sure your key workers have laptops so that they can continue to work from home.

  • Will key deadlines be able to be met, i.e. project delivery, accounting, payroll etc?

  • Think about how your telephones will be answered if the office is closed. Can you divert the main number to a mobile and have your receptionist work from home?

  • Ensure that you communicate to your clients using social media and your website to make sure they are aware the office is closed but that you’re operating as normal.

Once you have the above situations planned out you’ll be able to quickly see who will be able to carry on working and who won’t.

There is no legal right for staff to be paid where they can’t attend work in such situations, however it’s still best practice to ensure that your approach is documented clearly in your policy. You may consider that some time can be taken as annual leave rather than staff losing pay but I would recommend limiting this amount to only a few days and stating this clearly in your policy. Additionally, ensure that your contract clearly reflects your approach to payment in such situations.

If you have staff who are able to partially work, i.e. only for half a day etc. Again you’ll need to decide how to treat this absent time, whether it will be unpaid or taken as half a day’s annual leave.

A headache for some employers at times like this is the management of staff and the work getting done; i.e. can you trust your staff are working? Supervisors and managers should be taking on this task and ensuring that realistic deadlines and targets are set for staff so that a reasonable amount of work is carried out and people are held accountable for their output.

It’s worth noting that for individuals who can’t get to work due to issues of school/nursery closures etc, these absences would be covered under an Time off for Dependents Policy rather than this type of policy.

A similar policy can be adopted when staff can’t attend work due to no fault of their own, i.e. travel disruption due to industrial action

A last piece of advice is to get this policy and planning done now, ahead of an event occurring, and keep your business running as smoothly as possible.

If you are an employer and need ongoing assistance with staff and employment matters, talk to Cheryl at PeakHR. We offer competitive rates and cater specifically for small employers.

Please note our blog posts contain general information and are intended as guidance only and should not be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. Please ensure that you obtain advice tailored to your individual situation before taking action. These posts apply to the UK only.

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