is the government

The possibility of extreme weather conditions disrupting business is often a concern at this time of year, but with floods across the UK and snow predicted for the coming weeks/months this is particularly concerning for employers.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the ‘Big Freeze’ in 2010 was so costly to UK businesses that it caused the economy to shrink by 0.5%. It would be fair to suggest the main cost to business is simply staff being unable to reach work and so it is important for employers and employees to know where they stand.

Although journeys may be longer, (and often much less appealing!) where is it safe to do so there is no reason an employee should not attend as usual, and workers should certainly be expected to make a real effort to come in, even if they are unsuccessful. If it appears that an employee has simply chosen not to even try to attend, this could be treated as an unauthorised absence and reasonable disciplinary action in line with company policy could be taken.

The decision to pay/not pay staff when unable to attend due to extreme weather should be dependent on company policy. However, unless the employee’s contract states otherwise, there is no requirement for workers to be paid if they cannot attend. The key in this situation is consistency; a clear policy applied to all employees will ensure no one is seen to be given preferential treatment.

To ensure minimal disruption to business activity, where practically possible it would be beneficial to require employees to work from home. From an employee relations stand point, attempts to facilitate the opportunity for staff to work and be paid can go a long way to boosting morale.

Another issue in circumstances of extreme weather is the likelihood of school closures etc. In an emergency, qualifying employees are entitled to take unpaid leave (Time Off for Dependants.) Lack of or disrupted childcare arrangements in extreme weather would certainly fall into this category, i.e. children unable to travel to their usual carer, nursery/school closure. It is important to remember though that the leave taken should be reasonable in terms of finding alternative childcare for the duration of the disruption, not for the employee to stay away from work until the end of the bad weather. You may wish to offer this leave as paid holiday to employees bearing in mind that consistency is paramount and you should offer this to all needing time off for dependent care.

For more information on Time Off for Dependents/emergencies, and a Time off for family emergencies policy, click here.

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