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How will adverse weather impact employers and their staff?

Employment Law adverse weather

Each winter, Scotland braces itself for plummeting temperatures and if not snow, then a deluge of rain. This can cause real travel disruption, no matter how much we prepare. In recent days, we’ve already had storm Elin and storm Fergus buffet our shores, and the weather doesn’t look set to improve any time soon. With that in mind, we look at some considerations for employers this winter.

How will adverse weather impact employers and their staff?

The answer to this question will inevitably be determined by the type of business and whether or not its staff can work from home.

For employers whose staff need to attend a workplace (or any other onsite location) in order to do their job, it is important to consider whether or not it is safe and reasonable to expect staff to travel in adverse weather conditions.

Ensuring you have adequate policies and procedures in place to deal with winter conditions is an essential part of managing any disruption which may be caused. You should keep up to date with news announcements and updates from public transport agencies or local authorities to assess the likelihood of staff being able to get to work. Train cancellations can be the bane of a commuter’s life at the best of times and Scotland’s roads can be hit badly by the snow and ice. This may mean increased travel times, reduced services or last minute cancellations.

Employers should therefore aim to be as accommodating as possible. This could be by offering flexible start and finish times to tie in with the transport timetables, or allowing staff to get away before a heavy snow shower. Businesses should also ensure that their employees are aware of their absence reporting procedures so that they know who to report to if they are struggling to attend work due to adverse weather.

For primarily office based businesses, who already have systems in place to allow their staff to work from home, the weather disruption caused to them may be limited. Nevertheless, if a decision has been taken to allow all staff to work from home on a particular day, this should be communicated as soon as possible. You may also want to consider putting a weather alert system in place to allow text updates to be sent out to staff.

What other issues might employers be facing this winter?

Despite being able to work from home, some employers are still encouraging their staff to spend more time in the office, which may be a more challenging task in winter. As the cost of living crisis continues to bite, some employees might take the view that working from home during winter is easier and cheaper in terms of petrol and public transport. That being said, any cost saving on travel would need to be weighed against the cost of heating a home office.

If employers want to entice people into the office this winter, ensuring you have a warm and welcoming workspace will help to encourage staff to come in. Being flexible to accommodate travel disruptions and offering some working from home days can go a long way to supporting staff. Similarly, you might consider relaxing clothing policies to allow for more casual (and warm) clothes or even offering free hot food and drink on site to help to encourage staff to bear the cold!

If you would like to discuss this issue in more detail or get some guidance on your response to adverse weather, please get in touch with a member of the Employment Team at Thorntons on 03330 430350. 

About the author

Debbie Fellows
Debbie Fellows

Debbie Fellows



For more information, contact Debbie Fellows or any member of the Employment team on 03330 166582.