Winter can bring with it, its workplace own issues, in terms of staff shortages, absence, travel disruption and an increase in requests for annual leave. This is why an adverse weather policy is so important in the winter months. The main issue that comes to mind in the winter months is when employees can’t get to work because of snow. However, the cold and flu, lower temperatures and mental wellbeing all play their part in the winter months.

In order to combat these issues as effectively as possible, it is important to have a clear adverse weather policy, especially getting to and from work, absence and holiday requests, and it is also important to ensure that alternative options are provided to all staff where possible.

What should employers consider in their adverse weather policy?

Employees are not automatically entitled to pay if they are not able to get to work due to bad weather, however, if employees arrive ready, available and willing to work, but the business is forced to close or reduce its opening hours due to bad weather, they will usually still be entitled to receive their normal pay.

This would also be the case where other staff, such as line managers or staff who provide access to the building are unable to make it to work.

Where possible, alternative options should also be considered for employees, such as:

  • Allowing staff to come in later
  • Flexible working to allow employees to make up any time lost
  • Swapping shifts and providing overtime for employees who can make it to work, to minimise impact on productivity
  • Homeworking
  • Allow annual leave to be used when employees are unable to make it to work

Employees are also entitled to unpaid time off when:

  • Schools are closed and their child/children require looking after
  • Caring arrangements for disabled relatives are cancelled
  • A partner is seriously injured as a result of bad weather

In any case, a clear an adverse weather policy must be established and communicated to employees, stating what your expectations are but you must remain flexible, make use of information technology and take notice of any weather warnings which are issued to keep your business operating where possible and be sure to plan ahead.

Colds and Flu

Winter colds and flu mean an increase in workers calling in sick, so employers must ensure that absence reporting procedures are clear and must also regularly hold back to work interviews with employees when they return.

Also, if the illness lasts more than seven days, employees should then obtain a Statement of Fitness for Work (otherwise known as a doctor’s statement or ‘fit note’)

Working Temperatures

When entering the winter months, it is inevitable that temperatures within the office will drop so, even though there are no statutory requirements for what this should be, it is important to monitor the temperature and adapt when required. ACAS states that suitable working conditions would be around 16 degrees Celsius, or 13 degrees Celsius if a lot of the work is physical, however this is not required by law. During extreme weather conditions, suitable adjustments could involve relaxing the dress code to allow employees to dress in warmer clothes, allowing extra breaks for hot drinks and bringing in extra heating options for the office.  

Wellbeing in the workplace

Winter can sometimes cause an increase in conditions such as stress and depression so it is important to spot these signs and intervene where possible and also keep in mind:

  • Employees will rarely talk about any aspect of mental health voluntarily so it is important to spot the signs and try to set some time aside to speak in private and in an informal setting so as to make them feel at ease.
  • Make sure your line managers know how to respond to signs of stress. They may need the right training to help them handle difficult conversations and raise awareness of health issues.

If we can help you with your adverse weather policy or any other HR issue, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our HR Team at HR Services Scotland Ltd on 0800 652 2610.

For more information about the services that we provide at HR Services Scotland, please get in touch with us here.

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