Bad weather – how to handle it from an HR perspective

It can be a tricky situation for employers to handle, as in many cases there is little their employees can do to get into work any sooner.

So what should you do if you find your employees either absent or late due to bad weather?

Get your company policy in order

Firstly, get your Staff Handbook updated if you haven’t already done so. Including an adverse weather policy here would be a good start to dealing with the issue. This will show that you recognise the fact that Health & Safety could be compromised should your employees try to come in to work.

Included in the policy you’ll want to include mention of things such as;

  • Clauses on travelling to work, and how to do so safely; also who to contact in the event they are having difficulties
  • Details of alternative working arrangements – if possible
  • How you will organise pay (further details can be seen below)
  • How you will contact staff should you need to close

It will also be necessary to inform your employees of the potential consequences of not following company policy. Would you instigate a disciplinary procedure in the first instance? Or would you be more lenient? These are things you should consider when drafting your policy, however, it’s better to warn of the worst occurrence and then choose to be lenient later on.

Once it’s updated, let your staff know where to find it so they can familiarise themselves with yours and their responsibilities.

Usually, in this policy you would also state that if they make it to work they have to make up the time they have lost. That is, unless they’ve made a truly valiant effort to get into work as soon as they can!

What to do if they can’t get to the office

If they don’t make it into work, try and work around it if you can. Can they work remotely for example?

Whatever happens, treat each instance individually and be as fair as possible. Even the most punctual of employees can’t make the public transport run to your schedule if bad weather hits!

If your staff can’t make it to work, and can’t work from home, you’re faced with deciding how they will be paid. But don’t worry, you have a few options to choose from…

What to do when staff can’t work at all

First off, they can simply take it as paid holiday. Just like any other day they might take off (unless they are sick), this will come out of their holiday allowance, but they’ll get paid just the same.

If this doesn’t work for you, you can always treat it as time off in lieu, or flexitime. Effectively, any hours missed could be taken out of any hours that they have accrued as ‘extra’, such as working over their contracted hours or they’ll have to make up the hours they’ve missed within a reasonable amount of time.

Remember, staff have no statutory rights to take extra annual leave beyond 28 days – either paid or unpaid. So it is at your discretion if you wish to grant them special unpaid leave should they not be able to make it into work- although disciplining everyone who doesn’t turn up because of the snow could become very time consuming.

If you employ a parent, you may find that they’ve had to stay home because of school closures or other childcare issues, in which case you’ll need to grant domestic incident leave. Although you cannot refuse to give time off due to this sort of occurrence, you don’t have to pay staff for it.

Finally, if the weather is really bad (like last year’s floods for example), you may even decide that you can’t get in yourself and it’s better to just close the office. However, don’t think that because you’re not open for business, you shouldn’t have to pay your staff. You’ve taken away the option for them to come into work, so you’ll have to pay them even though you are closed.

Hopefully, spring will soon be in the air and we won’t have to worry about the bad weather for much longer. But in the meantime, and to be ready for next year as well, it’s best to think about how you will work around bad weather with your staff. It never hurts to be prepared!

Kirsty Senior is Co-founder of citrusHR – the small business HR experts with a fresh new take on people management.

Image: Bad weather via Shutterstock