Extreme weather… could this year’s predictions be right

Over the past couple of weeks the weather headlines have screamed snow, snow, snow… “Met Office warns big freeze on the way as polar vortex set to hit UK”, “Snow could hit Britain within six weeks with cold temperatures to last until February”.  However, we have heard these headlines for the last few years and winter turns out to be a damp squib with warmer than average temperatures!!

However, the weather has definitely turned colder this week… so could 2016 be the year for a cold snap?

It never hurts to plan from a business perspective and indeed having extreme weather and disruption policies in place can never be a bad thing, here a few things to consider:

Employees are not automatically entitled to pay if unable to get to work because of travel disruption: There is no legal right for staff to be paid by an employer for travel delays (unless the travel itself is constituted as working time or in some situations where the employer provides the transport). However, employers may have contractual, collective or custom and practice arrangements in place for this. Discretionary payment for travel disruption might also be of use. Some companies offer discretionary payments for travel disruption or have their own informal arrangements for this purpose. Such arrangements are normally contained in staff contracts or handbooks or through collective agreements.

  • Be flexible where possible: A more flexible approach to matters such as working hours and location may be effective if possible. The handling of bad weather and travel disruption can be an opportunity for an employer to enhance staff morale and productivity by the way it is handled, for example is there opportunity to work from home. Think about other issues such as alternative working patterns or who can cover at short notice.
  • Use information technology: Information technology could be useful in enabling a business to run effectively if many employees are absent from work, for example using laptops or smartphones.
  • Deal with issues fairly: Even if businesses are damaged by the effects of absent workers they should still ensure that any measures they take are carried out according to proper and fair procedure. This will help maintain good, fair and consistent employment relations and help prevent complaints to employment tribunals.
  • Plan ahead: Consider reviewing your policy and thinking about how you handle future scenarios. It would be best to put an ‘adverse weather’ or ‘journey into work’ policy into place that deals with the steps employees are required to take to try to get into work on time and how the business will continue if they cannot.

You need to decide how to deal with lateness and what will happen with regard to pay. Having such a policy should mean, there is much less scope for confusion and disagreement.

I for one do wish that we have a snow day this year, tobogganing, hot chocolate, fun, fun, fun – but obviously over a weekend, so I can return to work on Monday!  However, I know many people do not share my personal sentiments due to the disruption severe weather can cause, but hopefully the UK will be able to cope if the bad weather does hit.

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