Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Snow joke – expert offers advice to employers ahead of bad weather

With Swindon and Wiltshire braced for plunging temperatures and heavy snowfall this week, business law and staff welfare expert Peter Jones has issued some timely advice for business owners.

"There are three particularly pertinent issues for your business, firstly your staff getting to work safely, secondly health and safety in the office and lastly what you have to pay if the worst happens and your staff can’t make it in or you have to close the office," said Peter, who runs the HR Dept in Swindon and Wiltshire.

"It is ultimately your staffs’ responsibility to get to work, but we would advise that you act reasonably and be empathic and ensure they are fully aware of what you expect."

The Met Office says the worst of the weather is expected from 9pm tomorrow (Tuesday) until midday on Wednesday.

Peter advises sending a communication to staff including:

  • A warning to leave plenty of time to get to work due to transport closures and slow roads
  • Explaining what they should do if they cannot get to work and that unauthorised absence won’t be tolerated
  • Letting them know that they can take annual leave, if they have any left, they feel they can’t safely get in
  • A reminder that it is their responsibility to get to work – and if they don’t attend you won’t pay them
  • What your working from home policy is in these circumstances
  • The bottom line is that no one should ever risk their lives getting to work but it is the employee’s responsibility to attend work on time.
  • When bad weather arrives often schools close leaving your staff with emergency childcare issues in this situation your staff are entitled to unpaid time off for emergency dependent leave.
  • If you decide to close the office or place of work then you do have to pay your staff their wages.

"You may choose to close the office if the heating breaks or the temperature is too low, if normal service will be disrupted or it would be too dangerous to keep open," said Peter.

"If schools are closed, staff can take unpaid time off for emergency dependent leave. The idea is that this allows them to put alternative arrangements in place. This also applies if they are responsible for a dependent adult who may need additional care during this cold spell.

"If staff are snowed in, you cannot make them take holiday as the rules state that you have to give them twice as much notice as the amount of holiday you wish him to take. However, you do not have to pay them either an offer of using untaken holiday seems a good solution.

"And finally… have lots of hot drinks and heaters to reward those who made it and keep listening to weather reports as to avoid accidents staff could be better off travelling home earlier."