Winter weather can cause some real issues and one of the biggest problems can be staff struggling to make it into work. No one wants their staff to take risks or become injured, but equally, it is important that business does not grind to a halt either. Depending on your sector, the impact can range from mild inconvenience for clients through to life-threatening danger if emergency services are insufficiently staffed.
It makes sense to plan for such eventualities, after all, winter arrives every year, though sometimes the media makes it sound like snow, rain and cold weather come as a surprise each time.
Including weather issues in your business continuity plan, alongside things like utility failures, cyber attacks and epidemics of Flu makes a lot of sense . Planning ahead allows you to consider many of the impacts and decide how you will manage them. If a particular department or role is business-critical, what steps will you take to ensure this role can be covered if the employee cannot attend work?
Including a weather policy in your staff handbook ensures everyone is clear about what the company’s expectations are, to whom they should report difficulties and, if appropriate, the radius within which it is expected that staff should, mobility issues permitting, attempt to walk to work.
Be clear about the circumstances in which you will pay your staff to remain at home and make sure the rules are fair and transparent. May staff take holiday entitlement to avoid the bad weather? Will there be any restrictions on this?
Naturally, the safety of your staff and clients will be a priority and some common considerations include:
Gritting the car park and footpaths. On a large site this might need a decision on grit stocks, staff out of hours attendance, 24 hour rotating shift patterns or similar. The safety of not only staff, but also customers and contractors needs to be considered.
Snow, ice and heavy rain can all create slip hazards indoors via water on the floor. Will you provide buckets near the doorway in which you can stand umbrellas? Thick, absorbent, non-skid mats in doorways can reduce water transfer and it’s worth considering whether you have sufficient yellow warning signs available to place near doorways where the water will be at its worst? Cleaning staff might need to be asked to work overtime to keep the floors as dry as possible throughout the day and remove salt and grit that has been tracked across both hard floors and carpets.
Hazardous driving conditions – if you can possibly avoid staff needing to attend work during very bad weather, for example red or amber weather warnings, consider whether you can do so. Allowing key personnel to work from home if necessary can be a great way to get around this problem, and make your staff feel supported. Telecoms and IT systems can all be set up to allow this to happen easily.
The option to work from home at least some of the time is a very popular perk and being able to offer this can help to attract the best staff, in addition to providing the company with the flexibility to continue working during poor weather. It is helpful to add a remote working policy to the staff handbook and make clear that such working is at management discretion.
Guidance surrounding device use and security may also be needed as part of the handbook depending on the level of security and confidentiality involved. Remember that GDPR will still apply so personal data must be protected off site just as carefully as it is on-site.
If your business involves care for vulnerable people, will you organise transport to pick up those who are unable to get to work easily?
There are a number of areas that need to be considered and these are just some of them. The needs of the individual business and its staff need to be carefully balanced. Full and effective documentation which clearly outlines plans and expectations whilst prioritising safety and business continuity will help your business to plan ahead and to keep running throughout any difficult weather.
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