Employers’ responsibilities during adverse weather


HR consultant Natalie Lewis writes…


Winter is coming! (Well, it’s arrived!)

You may be wondering about your rights and responsibilities as an employer during adverse weather.

Firstly, your employees should attempt to come to work as normal where reasonably possible.

If, for example, driving to work would cause unnecessary risk then alternative methods of transport should be considered.

As a responsible employer, you may decide to be flexible with hours of work to reduce the element of risk at peak traffic times.

It is always best to have a policy to set the ground rules for adverse weather – for example in storms, snow or flooding.

The policy should outline the steps employees are required to take to try to get into work on time and how the business will continue if they cannot.

Within this policy, you will need to decide how to deal with lateness, the ability to work from home (where relevant) and what will happen with regards to pay.

Having such a policy should mean that there is much less scope for confusion and disagreement.

It is worth remembering that in most situations, employees are not automatically entitled to pay if they are unable to get to work because of adverse weather.

However, check your current policies and contract clauses for anything that may already be in place.

The handling of bad weather and travel disruption can be an opportunity for an employer to enhance staff morale and productivity by the way it is handled.

A snow day is always going to win hearts and minds!

It is generally more effective to take a flexible approach to matters such as working hours, considering who can cover at short notice and accounting for an individual employee’s location.

You may wish to show discretion in reducing hours of work where necessary, (ie: late start and early finish). This allows for slow traffic, delayed trains, alternative routes etc. I would always advise this!

Staff who are genuinely unable to get into the office and who cannot work from home must be considered on a case by case basis depending upon location, transport provision and personal circumstances.

However the general rule would be that they take these days of absence as a holiday or unpaid leave if they are not able to attend the office.

Where staff are unable to get to the office but have the facilities to work at home, consider this as a short term measure, subject to maintaining regular contact.

It is, however, important to remember that if the company decides not to open for business due to adverse weather then the employees may be entitled to normal pay depending on current policies and contracts of employment.

Absence due to personal sickness during periods of adverse weather should be treated as normal (check your current policies).

You should always deal with these issues in a fair and consistent manner in order to maintain good employee relations and help prevent complaints or employment claims.

For advice on HR issues for your firm, call 020 8798 3470 or visit