Ready Steady Snow

The weather has finally turned colder and snow is forecast for much of the country. As an employer this can be a challenging time, you need to keep the business going with minimum disruption, and you also have a duty of care towards your teams. The best approach is to be prepared and once the snow starts to fall keep in touch with your staff.

If you are a larger employer you may have a severe weather policy in place, however the majority of smaller business are unlikely to be so prepared. Therefore its important to talk to your staff about the likely scenarios and importantly to them, clarify when they will and won’t be paid and any alternatives to unpaid time off.

One of the biggest areas of concern for employers is the impact the weather will have on employees getting to work, this is followed by how will I cope if my staff have to stay home and look after their kids with the likelihood of school closures and do I still have to pay them.

Employees also have worries and concern, such as what happens if my kids are off? Will I get still get paid if I can’t get to work? How do I get to work? what if the trains are cancelled? What if the bus is late? I am nervous of driving in snow what should I do?

The key here is to be clear, transparent and reasonable in your approach to handling bad weather and snow. Wherever you can be prepared, think through the likely scenarios.

Unfortunately there is not one policy that will fit all, each business will have a different approach based on the nature of their work, the working hours, location and composition of the workplace.

What can you prepare for and discuss with your employees?

To maintain good employee relations and a create a great culture you will need to consider a more flexible approach. Think of all possible scenarios for your business and find the best solutions:

  • Mutually agreed holidays – (not enforced)
  • Time off in lieu – to be made up by a specified date
  • Using up pre-banked time off in lieu
  • Working from home – where feasible
  • Shorter hours on snow days to allow for longer and safer travel time hours to be made up by a specified date
  • Organising car pools or taxis

Do I have to pay my employees if I have to shut the business due to snow or bad weather? This depends………..

If you have to close your business or shorten the hours the likelihood is that you will still have to pay your staff unless you have a contractual clause allowing for lay off – in which case you can pay statutory guarantee payments.

You cannot enforce holiday unless you have given the minimum required notice which is double the amount of time taken off e.g. for one day, two days notice. Two days, four days etc

What is the legal position if my employees call in to say they cannot get to work due to the snow?

You are not obliged to pay an employee who is not able to get to work because of the snow, however as already suggested it is worth considering alternatives to unpaid leave to maintain a good working relationship and ensure your teams are not financially at a disadvantage

Do I need to pay employees if they have to stay home to look after kids due to school or nursery closure?

Parents who have a breakdown in childcare have the legal right to take unpaid time off to care for their dependants. The guidelines suggest this should be no more than two days – however this is dependent on the case and the facts. The purpose of this right is to give parents the opportunity to find alternative childcare solutions – this could be tricky in snowy circumstances, however parents may be able to pool child care with other parents. Again, if possible try to find suitable alternatives as the loss of pay can be difficult for families to cope with and is an additional stressor.

To summarise:

  • Keep channels of communication open
  • Be clear on the acceptable methods of communication
  • Consider alternatives to unpaid leave
  • Consider flexible working where possible
  • Allow time off in lieu where feasible
  • Mutually agree taking paid annual leave
  • Offer shift swaps
  • Allow employees to come in slightly later than usual
  • Avoid any disciplinary action due to lateness unless you have evidence an employee is taking advantage of the situation
  • Remove the uncertainty and stress by providing clarity to all employees as to the pay and hours as early as possible to avoid confusion

Finally remember you do have a duty of care towards your employees and their health and safety. You should conduct risk assessments of the work place and car parks. You should also be aware that there is a minimum working temperature of 16 degrees so ensure your heating works and be flexible on work wear, allow those extra layers!

If you have any questions, or want further advice get in touch: jo@jorivers.co.uk