Why all employers need an adverse weather policy

Business Insights

Advice by Peninsula Associate Director of Advisory, Kate Palmer

Over the next few weeks, the UK could see temperatures plummet as cold weather continues to come across from Europe and looks to bring with snow, sleet, and frost with it.

With that in mind, Kate Palmer, Associate Director of Advisory at Peninsula, the UK’s largest employment law and HR consultancy provides guidance on what employers can expect from their staff during adverse weather conditions.

Employers have the right to expect their employees to make it into work when they are required and have no legal obligation to pay them for any periods in which they fail to do this.

Despite this, it is becoming increasingly common that an employee’s journey to work can be hindered by bad weather.

This can create tricky situations for both employees and employers to deal with, making it unsafe for employees to get into work and potentially leading to a loss in overall productivity and output.

As such, with temperatures expected to drop significantly over the coming weeks, it is highly advisable that employers plan for these situations.

It should be remembered that all employers have a legal duty to ensure the health and safety of their workforce and that this should not be compromised in the event of severe weather.

They should, therefore, be open to exploring alternative arrangements that can reduce the effect that the weather will have on the company.

For example, it may be safer for them to work from home or in a pre-arranged alternative building that is closer to them.

If such an option is not possible, the lost working day could be treated as annual leave although this arrangement will likely need to be agreed with the employee as, generally, employees cannot be made to take leave without a requisite period of notice.

In order to ensure that all employees are aware of what their position will be if they do struggle to get to work as a result of bad weather, it is highly advisable that a visible policy is maintained.

A detailed policy will establish the potential consequences for what action will be taken if an employee is suspected to be lying, such as pursuing a disciplinary procedure.

It should also confirm the effect on pay if the employee is absent.

Employers should remember that non-attendance in these situations is likely not the employee’s fault and that it may be detrimental to employee relations if they are subject to a reprimand or lose out on pay as a result.

Due to the severe weather seen in recent times, and claims from unions that many workers were regularly forced to travel in dangerous conditions or risk losing a day’s pay, the Scottish Government has produced a Fair Work Charter to provide a set of guiding principles to support employers and workers in this situation.

Although the Charter is not mandatory, it can help to promote fairer working practices in Scotland. Furthermore, employers may wish to adopt it across the UK if they have operations in other areas too.


About Peninsula

With over 30 years’ experience, Peninsula has built the largest team of HR, Employment Law and Health Safety experts, who are trusted advisers to over 30,000 businesses across the UK and Ireland, providing advice and support to its members 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Because we understand that every business is different, Peninsula has utilised its team of experts to create the industry’s broadest range of solutions, all carefully tailored to help businesses of all shapes and sizes. These services streamline, simplify and strengthen our member’s businesses, maximising their chance to succeed.