The cold weather arrives with the expectation for travel disruptions, school closures and a challenging commute for workers. Usually there is no strict protocol during severe weather conditions. This often leads to ambiguity; with employees unsure what to do. When schools are closed and child care is unavailable this can be even trickier. Is your workplace likely to freeze over in these conditions?
Here are some tips to ensure employees can deliver high performance during the ‘big freeze:
Employers should check the forecast so that challenging weather conditions can be anticipated. A plan should be in place based on the severity of weather to avoid ambiguity. This could involve staff working from home, arriving later to work or allowing employees to take annual leave. When a storm is severe, working from home can avoid the risk of employees getting stuck on treacherous roads. The protocol may vary depending on the nature of the work involved.
Some employees may face greater challenges in commuting to work depending on their location. Those living in remote areas with challenging roads may to walk to work. Employers should consider this factor when deciding what is sensible. Allowances should be made for employees with children. Where school closures occur, employees may take Dependant Leave to look after their children. Laura Kearsley of Nelsons Solicitors states: ‘this is not time off to look after the child, but to make alternative arrangements for their care instead’. The important point here is that whilst employers should be flexible, they must be fair to all employees and not give preferential treatment based on circumstance.
Employers have a duty of care to employees, maintaining safe working conditions. Workplace entrances should be well-gritted, with employees being warned if roads are icy. Manual work may be not possible during bad weather conditions. Employers should play is safe, not take unnecessary risks. The cold weather can also make us feel unwell and needing to take time off work. Looking after our employees properly can help prevent this situation. It is better to have a healthy employee work from home than make them take a gruelling journey into work and be off sick the following day!
The winter blues are common even where a strong work culture exists. To counter this, efforts can be made to ensure the workplace is as comfortable as possible. Examples include making the office warm and cosy, offering a free hot lunch or providing hot chocolate and snacks. Showing recognition to those who have battled the cold temperatures is a good idea. Managers can also have regular one to one’s with their staff to see how they can support them.
Above we have outlined some of the ways employers can mitigate the risks of bad weather. Whilst there is often a lot of hype in the media when the weather takes a turn for the worst, employers should acknowledge all warnings and take appropriate measures where possible to ensure employee performance and engagement is not effected.