Articles | Adverse weather policies

What employers should consider when drafting and implementing an adverse weather policy.

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Ian Machray

Ian Machray

The severe disruption caused by the recent snow falls has forced many businesses to make some difficult decisions regarding how to treat absent workers.  It is not just snow which can cause problems as December's flooding in Cumbria demonstrated.  The summer floods of 2007 which affected the south west of England are also proof that adverse weather is not a winter-only occurence.

Putting an adverse weather policy in place now is an excellent way of:

- ensuring that your workers are aware of what is expected of them;

- providing guidance to those individuals with responsibility for decision making;

- ensuring your business is well equipped to cope with the disruption caused by adverse weather.

Encouraging employees to brave the elements and trek into work irrespective of the conditions may not be the best, or safest, use of their time.  You should consider more mutually beneficial ways of working such as remote access or by diverting calls to an employee's home telephone or work mobile number.

We advocate a common sense approach to the implementation of adverse weather policies  as such an approach is more likely to reward your organisation through staff loyalty.  A good adverse weather policy will include the following:

1) A statement which explains how your business in particular would be affected by absenteeism;

2) A statement of what is expected from workers during adverse weather conditions;

3) An explanation of what alternative options are available such as remote working, working at an alternative location, working additional hours outside of office hours in the future to make up for lost time or taking the time as holiday or unpaid leave;

4) Guidance on leaving work early;

5) How those with childcare committments due to school closures will be treated;

6) How those who have to care for disabled persons or vulnerable adults will be treated;

7) Details of whether or not a worker who does not work either in the office or remotely will be paid;

8) What steps will be taken to ensure the health and safety of those attending work or working from home;

9) An explanation that misuse of the policy would be a disciplinary offence.

There are other less obvious considerations which your organisation should bear in mind when compiling and implementing an adverse weather policy.

If your employees have the ability to work from home you should ensure that you have in place a home working policy with which they are familiar.

The adverse weather policy should cross reference your "time off for dependants" policy as many parents who are able to make it in to work may have childcare commitments in the event that their child's school or nursery is closed.

The statutory right of time off for dependants is also relevant to any of your workers who care for vulnerable relatives.  Be aware of obligations regarding disability discrimination and the need to make adjustments if your employee or the person for whom they care is disabled.

If a significant number of your employees travel to work using public transport you may wish to take the opportunity to broaden this policy to cover absences incurred as a result of major disruption to public transport e.g. via strikes or the weather.

Our employment group is able to tailor an adverse weather policy to match your organisation's specific requirements.  As with any policy, it will be more successful if it accurately reflects your organisation's ethos and way of working.