Whether it’s a snowstorm, hurricane or downpour of rain, mother nature can strike at any time or place. No matter what form it comes in, severe weather brings challenges to all companies. Even though it can be difficult to balance the safety of your employees with the needs of your company, it’s important to be prepared when faced with weather-related issues.
With the country grinding to a standstill as the Beast from the East hits, it’s important that you start preparations to ensure employee safety. You may not be able to control the weather but there are steps that can be taken during severe conditions to manage your workforce and avoid a work-related tornado from happening in your office.
Implement a weather policy
Making all employees aware of the effects that dangerous weather has on your company before it happens is a good way to manage your workforce. It’s important to have a weather policy in place to make employees aware of the company procedures before severe weather conditions happen and will avoid any possible confusion they may have. ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ is the mantra here.
Out of office communication
How can you let your employees know if you’re open or closed? It’s quick and easy to send out a mass email informing the workforce what’s happening or you can inform them through social media. Whether it be a tweet or a website update, make sure to let your workforce know what is happening as soon as possible. Don’t forget about clients either, for example, if you have a client who is expecting work on the day the company is closed, don’t leave them out in the cold - literally, message or phone them to keep them updated.
If possible, in your line of work, ask employees to work from home. This is an option increasingly being used by businesses as many employees can access work from their laptop. Solutions such as Google Drive, Microsoft 365, Slack and Zoom make this option easier than ever. To ensure employees are completing the work they must send you an email when they start their tasks and include a list of what they are working on. You should implement this into your company policy so that workers are already aware that they are not to take advantage of the chance to work out of the office. Employees working from home will keep your company running smoothly while making sure that they remain safe.
Consider health and safety rules
As a leader you must take the right steps to ensure the safety of your employees, for example, if an employee drives or takes a long commute into work, the weather may prevent them from doing so safely.
Payment to staff
When it comes to wages, employees should never be left feeling uncertainty about their rights. If an employee makes it to work and has to leave early as the weather worsens, they should still be paid a full day’s work. If you decide to close your office or if the employee can’t get to work at all due to hazardous conditions, they should still be paid. Make it clear that all workers must work from home. Using Tracking Time or Google Calendar are good ways for you to keep track of what your employee is working on at the exact time they start and finish each task.
There are very few working contracts that state employees who cannot get into work because of the weather will lose a day's pay. Employees have statutory protection against an unauthorised deduction being made from their wages without their consent and deducting pay could potentially be challenged as unlawful under these provisions (the employer could argue that there was no entitlement to pay as no work was done, this can be resolved with the working from home option.)
Even though these circumstances may be costly, the benefits of still paying your workers outweigh the benefits of not paying them. This is because staff will feel more appreciated, increasing their overall productivity.
Be understanding of your employees who have parental duties, they may need to seek alternative childcare methods if nurseries and schools are closed. Allow them the time off to sort out the problem. They will appreciate your understanding and will be more motivated when returning to work.
If the school closure is announced first thing in the morning and alternative childcare arrangements cannot be made, this could be seen as constituting an emergency situation and employees may have to take the day off. As an employer, you have the right to not pay your employee but you should treat this in the same way as when the employee can’t travel in and still pay them, as they will appreciate this and be more motivated.
Acknowledging employees who make it into the office
Employees who have battled into work, against the odds, may resent the fact that others made less effort. Ideally, the employees' efforts should not go unnoticed, although days off in lieu or other financial rewards are unlikely.
Acknowledging their efforts by organising a staff lunch to show your appreciation can go a long way to making them feel appreciated. However, it's important that all employers carefully observe weather warnings and let employees leave when appropriate to avoid any treacherous travel conditions on the way home. You must never ask staff to disregard official weather and travel advice.
The unpredictable nature of weather conditions will impact a business differently depending on the location and nature of the company. By taking a consistent approach and using digital methods to your advantage, you can ensure that your business is not massively affected by the freezing ‘Beast from the East’
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