Winter weather can cause some real issues and one of the biggest problems can be staff struggling to make it to 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, and the level of home-working that can be put into place, the impact can range from mild inconvenience for clients 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 and allows you to consider many of the impacts and plan how you will manage them. If a particular department or role is critical to the running of the operation, what steps will you take to ensure this role or department 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, by what time of day and, if appropriate, the radius within which it is expected that staff should, mobility issues permitting, attempt to walk to work if safe to do so.
Be clear about the circumstances in which you will, or will not, 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 every time. 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 team members to work from home can be a great way to get around this problem, and make your staff feel supported.
If you are planning to offer work from home, either temporarily or as a permanent arrangement, then a remote working policy should be added to the handbook. 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 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? For example, a minibus which collects staff from around the area, with staff in remote locations walking out to meet the transport on a cleared road to ensure the transport can proceed safely without endangering the passengers?
There are a number of areas that need to be considered and these are just some of them. The needs of the individual and the business 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 and to keep running throughout any difficult weather.
Whether you are a busy HR consultant needing support with handbooks and documentation, or an overwhelmed business owner who has started to drop some of the plates you were previously spinning successfully, get in touch with me to find out how I can help you to achieve more in less time.