Most of the UK has been blanketed in snow with several severe weather warnings issued. Undoubtedly businesses everywhere will be feeling the impacts and worrying about what their obligations are and what it is going to cost them. Alison Schreiber, Director at The HR Dept, Durham & Darlington, looks at the issue and how it can be managed.
There are three particularly pertinent issues for your business, firstly your staff getting to work safely, secondly health and safety in the office and lastly what you have to pay if the worst happens and your staff can’t make it in or you have to close the office.
It is ultimately your staffs’ responsibility to get to work but we would advise that you act reasonably, be empathic and ensure they are fully aware of what you expect.
We would advise sending a communication to your staff including:
• Notifying them to leave plenty of time to get to work due to transport closures and slow roads
• Explaining what they should do if they cannot get to work and that unauthorised absence won’t be tolerated
• Letting them know that they can take annual leave, if they have any left, if they feel they can’t safely get in
• A reminder that it is their responsibility to get to work – and if they don’t attend you don’t have to pay them
• What your working from home policy is in these circumstances
The bottom line is that no one should ever risk their lives getting to work but it is the employee’s responsibility to attend work on time.
When bad weather arrives often schools close leaving your staff with emergency childcare issues in this situation your staff are entitled to unpaid time off for emergency dependent leave.
If you decide to close the office or place of work then you do have to pay your staff their wages.
You may choose to close the office if the heating breaks or the temperature is too low, if normal service will be disrupted or it would be too dangerous to keep open.
Bad Weather FAQS
The central heating has broken down do I have to send staff home?
The temperature of the workplace falls under health and safety law and, while there is no legal minimum temperature for a workplace, employers are required to keep warmth levels “reasonable”.
Generally, the guidance suggests that that this should be around 16ºC, or 13ºC where the job involves strenuous physical work.
Schools in our area are closed do I have to pay my staff if they take time off?
Staff can take unpaid time off for emergency dependent leave. The idea is that this allows them to put alternative arrangements in place. This also applies if they are responsible for a dependent adult who may need additional care during this cold spell.
My engineer says he is snowed in. Can I make him take holiday?
Technically you cannot make them take holiday as the rules state that you have to give them twice as much notice as the amount of holiday you wish him to take. However, you do not have to pay them either an offer of using untaken holiday seems a good solution.
I want to close the office do I have to pay staff?
If you decide to send staff home that have battled their way in, yes you do have to pay them.
My Office Manager wants to work from home. Do I have to agree?
No, but if working from home is an option as long as the work gets done and it is not just an excuse to get paid for making snowmen!
The Accounts Manager hasn’t turned up but I know she could have got in easily, what should I do?
Make sure you are being reasonable. Check that buses are running and that roads are passable; then when she returns investigate listening to her justifications and decide if disciplinary action is appropriate.
Have lots of hot drinks, spare heaters and mince pies to reward those who made it and keep listening to weather reports as to avoid accidents staff could be better off travelling home earlier.
If you need advice on preparing a contingency plan for bad weather, or for dealing with unauthorised absence, pour yourself a hot chocolate and give The HR Dept a call.