Maintaining business operations in adverse weather

29 September 2022
29 September 2022

As we enter autumn there is an increasing possibility of snow and severe weather which means disruptions to the roads, to public transport and international travel. For employers this may result in employees facing difficulties getting to work and returning home, often resulting in unplanned major disruption to business operations.

Driving productivity through policy

It is important to be clear about what is expected of employees in adverse weather conditions and the introduction of an adverse weather policy is a sensible way to achieve this.

Any policy should recognise the practical and potential health and safety challenges of travelling in adverse weather. They should be clear in terms of the expectations that employees act in a reasonable manner and maintain productivity where possible.

An adverse weather policy should therefore outline the organisations’ views on:

Health and safety considerations

Employers should take into account any measures that must be taken in ensuring the health and safety of their employees. This is particularly important for those that work outside or that have to travel as part of their work duties. Organisations should not compel employees to travel to work if their health and safety may be compromised or if it will cause them significant difficulties. For this reason, organisations should have a disaster recovery plan in place which allows employees to work remotely.

Reasonable efforts to attend work

Employees need to be informed that they should make every reasonable effort to get to work however, this should not be at the risk of their own personal safety. Employers should encourage employees to car share which may ease the burden about getting into work. In situations where adverse weather has been forecast ahead of time, organisations should also consider whether it might be practical to arrange transportation for essential staff to get into work.

Notification of absence and/or lateness

Employers ought to outline the requirements for notifying absence to plan for minimum disruption to the organisation. Employees must be informed of the consequences in the event that notification procedures are not followed, ie treating the absence as unauthorised. In addition, employers should consider how to treat absence for employees who are unable to get to work due to child care issues as a result of school and nursery closures.

Lateness and leaving work early

Employers are entitled to treat lateness due to adverse weather in the same manner as any other lateness. However, consideration should be made to whether this approach can be adapted if the employee has made every effort to get to work in difficult weather conditions. Allowing employees to leave early should be considered in light of worsening conditions.

Alternative ways of working

Consider whether an employee is able to work from home or current location, a different office or whether they can work flexible hours and still meet the organisation’s needs. This may not be possible for every role but employers should inform staff of their expectations for duties being undertaken outside the normal place of work. In addition, as part of the disaster recovery plan, organisations should ensure that their IT infrastructure is able to cope with the increased capacity for home or remote working as quite often this can fail if servers and equipment have not been checked prior to being increased usage.

Impact on an employee’s entitlement to pay

Any deductions to pay as a result of lateness, leaving work early, working amended hours or how absence is to be treated should be made in writing prior to any deductions taking place.

There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account and quite often employers are not able to take a consistent approach due to individual circumstances or geographical locality. In all circumstances, employers should look to apply fairness and reasonableness of how absence is to be treated.

If staff are genuinely unable to attend work and cannot work from home or their current location, then typically there will be no contractual obligation to pay an employee. An employer only has a duty to pay an employee who is willing and able to turn up to work.

Covering an absence

Employees can use their holidays to cover any period of absence. This should be done by agreement unless the contract allows for this. An employer can enforce a holiday but given the Working Time Regulations 1998 rules around notice that employers need to give (twice the number of days of holiday), then it could be impossible to do this safely.

If an employee does not have any holidays available, or if the employee chooses, then an employee can be granted authorised unpaid leave.

For more information please get in contact with Steve Sweetlove.