How to prepare your business for the big chill 2017

Britain is freezing in the 'Big Chill' with temperatures down to -15C with lots of snow predicted. Local Authorities have confirmed that hundreds of schools will be closed and motoring authorities have advised motorists only to make essential journeys.

What are the implications for employers when you see headlines like this?

The ACAS guide on travel disruption gives the following advice:

1)    Employees are not automatically entitled to paid time off if they are unable to get to work because of travel disruption. However most employers may have arrangements in place in the contract of employment or staff handbook or informal arrangements based on past precedent regarding discretionary payment. There could also be a collective agreement to cover this issue.

2)    Be flexible – The handling of bad weather and travel disruption can be an opportunity for employers to enhance morale in the way it deals with the issues caused. Allowing employees to work from home or to implement an emergency temporary work pattern will be well received.

3)    Use technology where possible to eliminate the need to travel.

4)    Deal with issues arising equitably, fairly and consistently.

5)    Plan ahead by reviewing what happens now and making a strategy for when it happens again – as it will! Having a clear policy in place and understood will lead to less confusion and potential disagreement next time.

If the conditions are sufficiently bad for the Local Authorities to close schools then the issue of time off for dependants becomes a factor. This is time off work to make sure a child is looked after. Time off for dependants is unpaid time off to cover for such emergencies.

The Citizens Advice Centre is advising employees needing time off for a dependant to:

1)    Speak to their Manager asap

2)    Request parental leave if it looks like a long closure (if you qualify for parental leave).

3)    Request dependant leave clearly stating that you need time off to care for a child because the school is closed. In most cases a day or two will be sufficient.

The best advice for employers is to develop a travel disruption policy that suits the needs of the business, get the policy agreed and implemented to reduce confusion when there is a sudden issue that stops employees getting to work.