Employers must be flexible during the harsh weather conditions and should not force staff to “risk life and limb” getting to work, business groups have warned.
As the cold snap continues, with up to 40cm of snow forecast overnight for some parts of the UK, employers have been encouraged to be more aware of staff needs and to allow them greater flexibility over working hours.
Hundreds of schools across the country have been forced to close, leaving working parents with caring problems, trains have been cancelled, and motorists are being warned to make only essential journeys.
Rebecca Clake, organisation and resourcing adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said: “Employers should make clear to employees that they should not risk life and limb to get to work, and be understanding if employees need to leave early to avoid getting stranded unnecessarily on their way home – particularly if conditions worsen during the working day.”
She added if staff were unable to get in to work and could not work from home employers must be consistent in their approach about whether they were granted special leave or required to take annual leave.
The Forum of Private Business (FPB) has warned the cost of staff absenteeism due to snow could reach at least £230m.
The FPB’s research manager, Tom Parryhome, warned if employers were encouraging staff to work from home they had to ensure houses met required health and safety standards.
He said: “Home working might be seen as a solution [to the snow] but business owners should be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure that employees’ houses meet health and safety standards.”
The CIPD also warned that staff required to drive for their jobs should not be pressurised into doing so.
Clake said: “Where employees are required to drive for work, employers also have a health and safety duty to ensure drivers are allowed extra time to complete journeys and factor in alternative routes – and that they are not pressurised to complete any journeys made dangerously difficult by the weather.”
Meanwhile, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned employers against withholding pay or forcing staff to take holiday if they miss work because of the snow.
The TUC’s general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Scrooge bosses who dock pay and take away holiday are needlessly adding to their business woes by creating resentment among staff. Workers who have been prevented from getting to work despite their best efforts should not have to foot the bill for the bad weather conditions.”
Snow: what you need to know
Guides on how to deal with employment issues arising from poor weather conditions can be found on the XpertHR website.