Winter can bring several instances of staff shortages due to sickness absence, travel disruption and an increase in requests for annual leave.  

In order to deal with these issues as effectively as possible, it is important to have clear adverse weather policies in place, especially to do with employees getting to and from work, but also to do with absence and holiday requests. Clear policies on sickness are also important during the winter months, when colds and the flu are more common. Employers should also ensure that alternative options are provided to all staff where possible. 

For any employer looking to minimise the hours lost over winter, these adverse weather policies are a must: 

What should employers consider in their adverse weather policy? 

One of the main issues that comes to mind during winter is when employees can’t get to work because of snow or flooding. 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 
  • Allowing employees to work from home
  • 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 policy on dealing with absence due to adverse weather must be established and communicated to employees. This should state what your expectations are, but you must remain flexible, plan ahead, make use of IT and take notice of any weather warnings which are issued to keep your business operating where possible.  

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. Even though there are no statutory requirements for what this should be, it is important for employee wellbeing 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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