It’s that time of year again when the temperatures drop and the unpredictable British weather can bring about sudden snowfalls that cause chaos around the country. Before the bad weather hits, think about its impact on your business so you can take steps to minimise the risk.
Every business should have a contingency plan. If you are aware that bad weather is on the way let employees know, so that where possible they can take laptops and prepare to work from home if necessary. Circulate a list with key contacts and make sure all your employees are well informed of any developments. Think also about working patterns and cover at short notice. Make sure all line managers have been briefed on the contingency plan and that both managers and employees have access to the contact numbers they need.
You could even prepare a list of handy tips to send out to your employees relating to travelling in the cold weather; such as keeping bottled water and extra blankets in their cars. Storing some old carpet in the boot can also be a good idea as it could help them get out of the snow if the car is stuck and needs traction. Put the health and safety of your employees first and do not force anyone to travel to work if they feel it is unsafe to do so.
Have applicable policies in place
Review all applicable polices such as ‘adverse weather’, ‘journey into work’ and of course ‘driving for work’. In your policies you will be able to clearly outline the processes, contingencies and where your employees will stand with regard to pay and childcare arrangements. Being clear from the outset will let everyone know of what is appropriate and you can communicate how lateness and absence will be treated. You need to bear in mind your duty of care towards your employees and their health and safety.
A flexible approach to matters such as working hours and location will be more effective that you think. You could even take the opportunity to boost staff morale and productivity. Being flexible could include allowing for later start times and early finish times to avoid peak hours.
Are employees entitled pay?
Employers are not required to pay staff for travel delays unless staff are travelling in the course of their work or where the employer pays for an employee’s travel. On the other hand, an employer may have contractual, collective or custom and practice arrangements in place for this. Employers could use discretionary payment for travel disruptions or have their own informal arrangements. These are usually found in the employees’ contract, company handbook or collective agreements.
What if schools are closed and employees have to look after their children?
When unexpected disruption to childcare occurs, parents are entitled to take ‘time off for dependents’ leave (short term and unpaid). For example, if childcare cannot be organised then employees are entitled to take a day off work unpaid due to it being an emergency situation involving a dependent. Remember time off to care for dependents is unpaid but not all employers take this approach, instead choosing to exercise discretion and pay the employee or even allow use of holidays to cover. Just ensure you are consistent and treat everyone fairly.
Use information technology
You can plan to maintain business as usual with the use of laptops, mobile phones, online conferencing facilities and remote working IT practices, where possible, during a time of travel disruption or to allow working from home. Having online storage such as Dropbox, Skydrive or Google Drive could allow easier remote working for employees, via shared files.
Deal with issues fairly
Remember to follow proper, reasonable and fair procedures, taking all necessary measures to ensure consistent employee relations during these times and help prevent complaints to employment tribunals, even when your business may be damaged by the effects of absent workers.
Make your office environment more welcoming
Remember that you do have a duty of care to your employees so carry out risk assessments of your offices and ensure that all staff are comfortable during the cold weather. There is no legal minimum temperature by law but taking the time to ensure staff are warm and comfortable will show your commitment to the health and safety of your staff.
Finally, ensure all policies are communicated well in advance to avoid confusion, disruption or disagreement.
Call us on 0161 941 2426 if you wish to review your policies and ensure you are minimizing the risks.