Preparing for Winter Weather

By Matthew Reymes Cole
10 Dec 2020

2020 has already been a difficult year. Temporary and permanent closures of businesses have plagued the UK. Now, with winter setting in, you may end up facing something that may, at least, seem more familiar – bad weather.

Heavy snow, or wind, can cause issues for you and your staff. You may struggle to keep your company open and they may struggle to travel to work. So, with this in mind, what do you need to consider?

Winter weather - HR considerations

Working from home

The first option to consider is to permit staff to work from home. This will help remove the risk of disruption. Current coronavirus guidance means that staff should work from home if they can. This applies to the whole of the UK.

With mobile technology it’s easier than ever to implement remote working on a temporary basis. It’s a guaranteed way to ensure work is being completed during period of bad weather. From your employees’ perspective, it removes any anxiety they may feel coming into work.

You should conduct an assessment to see if the weather has affected necessary services. Things like telephone lines, internet connections are often essential to the job role. If any of these are out of service, you can decide that homeworking isn’t applicable.

Impact on staff travel

Staff who cannot work from home will need to come into the workplace. This means considering coronavirus restrictions and weather impact on travel. Find out more about car-sharing under COVID here.

You can expect staff to make every reasonable effort to get to work. This doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily arrive on time. Sometimes even leaving extra early isn’t enough to prepare for the tricky commute. If you do think the weather is too bad for travel, make sure you notify your employee well in advance.

If the employee is late, you don’t have to pay them for the time they miss. However, it is reasonable agree a way for the employee to make up their lost time. You should have the conversation with the employee as soon as possible to avoid any misunderstandings.

Childcaring emergencies

With the joint threat of COVID-19 and winter weather, there may be more school closures this year than usual. If an employee is in work as normal, they may need time off to make childcare arrangements.

Employees have a statutory right to a reasonable amount of time off to deal with emergency situations involving dependants. This will cover the breakdown in care arrangements. This type of time off is usually unpaid, although this will depend on your policy.

When staff cannot make it into the workplace

What if staff can’t make it to work but you stay open for business? In this scenario, you don’t have to pay them (unless your contract says otherwise). This is a harsh stance to take, however, as the absence isn’t their fault.

Luckily, there are other options.

The first is to consider allowing employees to take short-notice annual leave for this period. This will ensure they’re still receiving full pay. However, they will sacrifice some of their holiday entitlement. Make sure they’re aware of this before agreeing. Other options include using banked lieu hours, or making the time up at a later date.

Closure of the workplace

In extreme circumstance, you may need to completely close your business. This is your decision to make, but it’s important to be aware of the ramifications.

First, unless there is a contractual right to places on unpaid lay off, you should pay staff in full. You do this based on the normal hours they would’ve worked if the workplace was open.

The same rule applies if you open later or close earlier. Pay employees for their normal hours, even if they aren’t working them.

Expert support

If you have concerns regarding health and safety concerns around winter weather, speak to one of our experts today on 01455 858 132.


About the Author

Matthew Reymes-Cole

Matt joined Croner in 2007 as an employment law consultant and has advised clients of all sizes on all aspects of employment law. He has worked within management positions since 2017 and currently oversees a team within the litigation department, whilst continuing to support a number of clients directly.

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