Snow days: create a policy that can weather any storm…

Storm Ciara’s rain and wind is said to give way for snow and ice this week. Don’t put away your winter clothes just yet! With further travel disruption and unpredictable weather on the cards, think of now as the perfect time to remind your employees (and check with your employer) about your company’s procedure on adverse weather and travel disruption. It’s snow laughing matter!

As an employer, make sure you are best placed to address any potential calls from staff who can’t make it into the office. Have an up to date adverse weather policy setting out what the Company expects during periods of severe weather and what is expected of staff.

Top tips for an adverse weather policy (that can weather any storm!):

  • Set out at the outset the intention of the policy; when it will come into play and what the Company recognises as severe weather. For example, is it applicable in specific severe weather such as snow, ice and wind or conditions that can be dangerous to travel in? Do you operate in an area prone to flooding? Is the list exhaustive?
  • Recognise that when there are disruptions to public transport, or school closures, staff may face difficulties in getting to and from work. This can vary greatly from business to business and should be amended accordingly, particularly for those who drive as part of their job.
  • Set out your expectations of staff in relation to authorised leave, paid leave and what efforts you consider are reasonable. Perhaps your policy will include the need for a form of consultation with the employee to take into account each individual’s circumstances. According to ACAS guidance, there is no automatic legal right for a worker to be paid for working time they have missed because of travel disruption or bad weather. What is your stance if the decision is made to temporarily close your business premises?
  • When public transport is unavailable, set out your Company’s position in relation to employees travelling to work. Perhaps you require employees to make all reasonable efforts to attend work? It is particularly important to consider the health and safety implications in your policy. Make it clear that the Company is concerned about protecting health and safety and does not expect employees to put themselves at unnecessary risk in travelling.
  • Try to prepare for eventualities- for example perhaps set up a buddy system for people who live close-by to each other. Or, set up remote working for employees who rely on public transport and may have to work from home.
  • If an employee can’t make it into the office and has to work from home, make sure they are aware of your lone working policy, particularly if they do not normally work from home.

Finally, don’t leave your employees out in the cold. Make your policy and procedure on adverse weather easily accessible online for all employees. If you don’t have a policy in place… there’s snow time like the present.

For help and advice on adverse weather policies and employment law please speak to a member of the Blackadders Employment Team.

Kasia Thomson, Trainee Solicitor at Blackadders LLP.

Kasia Thomson, Trainee Solicitor at Blackadders LLP.