The Beast From The East, It's Snow Joke!

With the ‘Beast from the East’ looking set to hit Britain in the coming weeks, are you prepared?

The Met Office recently said the Contingency Planning Forecast (used by the Government to prepare for extreme weather), predicts that the first three months of 2019 are likely to be much frostier than normal. Here’s how you can get ahead from a HR perspective.

Bad weather has the potential to disrupt business operations and to affect employees commuting to or from work or travelling for work-related reasons. Whilst employers can reasonably expect employees to use their own judgement as to whether they can safely travel, consideration should be given to providing guidance and instruction in advance on what steps are expected to be taken in case of severe weather or disruption to travel/public transport. 

With this in mind, it is a good idea to have a severe weather policy in place which applies to all staff and outlines employee responsibilities for attendance at work and company expectations. Such a policy would include:

  • Who an employee should contact if they are unable to attend work or are delayed
  • Alternative work arrangements, for example, home working
  • If annual leave can be used
  • Whether the lost time can be made up at a later date
  • Whether an employee will be paid as normal if they do not attend work
  • If the leave will be recorded as unpaid

Deductions from pay

If an employer wishes to be able to make deductions from employees’ pay if they are late or do not turn up for work, it should include a contractual right to do this in the contract of employment.  Stopping an employees’ pay is more likely appropriate in circumstances where they do not turn up for work at all rather than occasional lateness for reasons beyond an employee’s control.

Transport

The policy would also need to cover what will happen if severe conditions or disruptions to public transport or roads occur during the working day. Who decides if it is appropriate for staff to leave work early, are such decision made on an individual basis, taking into consideration the employee’s circumstances (e.g. distance from home to work and mode of transport).

Unless the employer has contractually promised to provide transport for employees to and from their place of work, the onus is on the employees to get to work regardless of the severity of the weather conditions. If employees fail to turn up for work in these circumstances, the employer is under no obligation to pay them. If an employee's normal mode of transport cannot be used because of disruption due to severe weather conditions, the employer should first encourage the employee to explore alternative means of safe transport. The employer may wish to consider whether the employee could usefully work from home until the weather situation has improved. If this is not a viable option, then the alternatives available are for the employer to advise employees that any time off work in these circumstances will be unpaid or paid on a discretionary basis but only in exceptional cases. Another option is that employees can request to take the time off as paid annual leave.

Health & Safety

As an employer, there is a duty of care to ensure as far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees and workers. The management of Health & Safety requires that a suitable and enough assessment of risk arising from the company’s activities is undertaken. Therefore, it will be necessary to conduct regular risk assessments for employees whose job involves driving or working outdoors to ensure conditions are properly instructed and appropriate clothing, equipment and rest breaks are given.

For further information on a policy, HR advice or guidance, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01473 276170 or at [email protected]