December 8, 2017

Five Employee Absence Tips for Winter Weather

With the latest weather forecasts predicting freezing weather conditions and possible snowfall across Britain this winter, it’s vital for businesses to start preparing for increases in employee absences.

Extreme weather conditions tend to cause a dramatic rise in staff absences because road and rail disruption, combined with school closures, make it difficult for employees to make it in to work.

Effective absence management and flexible working options can help maintain staff productivity and reduce the cost to businesses.

Here are our tips to reduce the impact it has on your business:

1. Let employees know what is expected of them

If you do not have an adverse weather policy or procedure in place, now is the time to develop one.

Having clear plans in place will help you prepare for any possible difficulties and it will also inform your employees of what is expected from them in these situations.

The legislation

Both employers and employees are often unclear about what they are legally obliged to do if adverse weather prevents employees from attending work. There isn’t any specific legislation that covers adverse weather.

Therefore, the normal legislation applies:

  • Employees are responsible for getting themselves to work and should make every effort to attend as normal
  • They are not entitled to be paid if they do not make it in to work
  • If employees arrive to work late, they are not entitled to be paid for the time they have not worked

2. Be flexible where possible

Deducting pay could have a long-term impact on productivity and employee morale. Offering the following alternatives is likely to be much more effective.

  • Arrange for employees to work from home or at an alternative office/site if possible
  • Consider altering working times in agreement with employees wherever this is possible
  • Allow employees to take any outstanding lieu time or flexi-time, if available
  • Allow employees to take the time off as holiday, if available. However, remember that employers cannot require employees to take holiday entitlement at short notice.

3. Be fair

Your employees will be expected to turn up for work by whatever reasonable means is available to them.

However, this must be at their own discretion, dependent on the weather conditions in their own area, the availability of transport and without added risk to their own personal safety.

Employees who live within a close distance of their workplace can be expected to attend for work wherever it is possible for them to walk. Whether or not this will be possible is a matter for consideration between the employer and the employee.

Things you will need to consider in this situation are as follows:

  • the distance involved to get from the employee’s home to the workplace
  • the weather conditions
  • the time of day
  • the general health of the employee

4. Be consistent

Ensure you treat all employees the same to avoid any claims of discrimination.

Owing to their primary care responsibilities for children and/or dependents, female employees are likely to demonstrate that adverse weather condition impacts them more than their male counterparts.

Ensure you take this into consideration, especially if you decided to deduct pay for time absence.

5. Prepare for school closures

In the event of unexpected school closures, parents are entitled to take ‘dependants’ leave’ to find alterative childcare arrangements. However, they are not entitled to payment for this.

And what if you believe employees are falsely blaming the weather?

If you feel an employee is using the bad weather as an excuse to arrive late or not come in at all, this should be dealt with through your disciplinary procedure.

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About the author

Gillian Smith

Gill has over 10 years HR generalist experience within the retail and industrial service sectors.Whilst providing HR support and services at the most senior levels Gill’s experience includes mergers and acquisitions, complex TUPE transfers, organisational development, and strategic change management. Gill has experience in the policy development process from design, consulting with directors and employee representatives through to implementation and delivering training workshops on the new polices. Gill currently is an HR policy consultant who services a variety of clients.