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Charlie Duff

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Are your employees snowed under? Severe weather and its impact on business


There’s no business like snow business: but even in severe weather conditions there are solutions employers can put in place for employees to keep disruption to a minimum, says the CIPD.

The severe weather already affecting much of Britain and school closures affecting parts of the country do not necessarily have to mean major problems for employers: a combination of technology and common sense on the part of employers and employees can minimise the impact for many, argues the Institute.
Where people can log in to work from home – or where the time can be used to focus on thinking time, there is a real opportunity to minimise the cost to business of the travel chaos. With reports already coming in of employees being told ‘come hell or high water, you are expected in, whatever the weather’ it may be a difficult time for staff morale as well as employers, bearing in mind January is the month employees are most likely to pull a sickie.

It is with this backdrop the CIPD is calling for common sense to prevail. Rebecca Clake, Organisation and Resourcing Adviser at the CIPD, explained: “Overall, much of this comes down to common sense. Employees should have the sense to try to get in without taking unnecessary risks. But also they should speak to their employers if they are unable to get in, and not just treat the snow as automatic permission to take an unannounced holiday. Equally, employers should make clear to employees that they should not risk life and limb to get to work, and be understanding if employees need to leave early to avoid getting stranded unnecessarily on their way home – particularly if conditions worsen during the working day. Where employees are required to drive for work, employers also have a health and safety duty to ensure drivers are allowed extra time to complete journeys and factor in alternative routes – and that they are not pressurised to complete any journeys made dangerously difficult by the weather.”

HR’s duty of care
HR has responsibility for employees’ wellbeing, as this recent article shows, and the truth is that with many employers expected to be affected, many job roles may not able to be fulfilled through home working. Other employees will be left with extra childcare responsibilities as schools close down because of the snow. In these cases difficult decisions on how to manage employees who have not been able to make it into work will have to be made.

Rebecca continued: “Employers need to carefully consider opportunities and options available if the weather conditions do stop employees making it in. Many companies that have put in place the technology and management practices to allow home working, reap the benefits at a time like this.

“The crude millions-of-pounds estimates of the cost to the economy of bad weather often don’t take into account the millions of motivated workers who will be remotely working or if access to emails is not possible, using the time to focus on planning or to reflecting on work processes and practices."

Managing employees unable to get to work or affected by school closures
Rebecca added: “Of course, many types of work simply cannot be done from home, and some employers may struggle to operate their business. These employers will be working hard to get those employees who have made it in to operate the business as best they can, even if that means turning their hands to tasks not normally part of their day jobs.

“Employees can reasonably be expected to do their best to get into work on foot, or where travel is less badly affected. Where employees are genuinely unable to get in, and this can be demonstrated to the employer, decisions will have to be taken as to whether to allow line managers to use their discretion in granting special leave, whether to require employees to take annual leave, or whether to shut down operations altogether. There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, but employers must take care to be consistent in the way that they make the necessary decisions – guided by existing policies where relevant."

Also on HRzone:

  • To find out more about technology which can help and health and safety implications click here for our winter survivial kit for your organisation.
  • Should you dock pay if workers can’t make it in? One law firm warns against it: read what they have to say here.
  • Do you have a policy for bad weather? What procedures do you follow and how do you make your decisions in the case of heavy snow or ice? Tell us below.
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Charlie Duff


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