Millions of workers have been told to stay at home amid predictions that the UK will be hit by the worst storm in decades today (18 February).
A rare red weather warning – which means danger to life – has been issued covering south-west England, south Wales and London and the south-east.
Many schools have also been closed as a precaution, meaning some working parents will be forced to stay home for childcare reasons.
Forecasters predict that Storm Eunice could bring gusts of up to 90 miles per hour on Friday, with coastal areas likely to be worst hit.
The Met Office said there is a risk of “damage to buildings and homes, with roofs blown off and power lines brought down”.
The severe weather will inevitably impact travel into work, with many train services suspended or delayed. A number of operators, including Great Western, West Midlands and Avanti West Coast have requested that customers not travel or have warned of disruption to services.
National Highways head of road safety Jeremy Phillips encouraged drivers to “check the latest weather and travel conditions before setting off on journeys and consider if their journey is necessary and can be delayed until conditions improve”.
“In high winds, there’s a particular risk to lorries, caravans and motorbikes, so we’d advise drivers of these vehicles to slow down,” he added. “Drivers of other vehicles should be aware of sudden gusts of wind which can affect handling and braking, and give high-sided vehicles, caravans, and motorbikes plenty of space.”
With many employees already working from home due to the pandemic, it should be feasible for many managers to allow office-based workers to operate remotely.
However, where employees are in face-to-face roles, employers should consider the health and safety implications of asking them to come to work. Some may already have a severe weather policy in place to set out arrangements if there are disruptions to public transport or risk to health and safety.
Advice from XpertHR recommends such a policy encourages employees to consult with managers on taking the time as annual leave, making up time at another date or taking the day as unpaid leave.
In addition, parents or carers are entitled to take unpaid time off for dependants if they are unable to come to work due to school or nursery closures.
Legally, XpertHR advises that an employer is under no obligation to pay an employee who is late or fails to turn up for work due to severe weather, but adds that it may be more pragmatic to do so in order to foster good employee relations.
Eunice is the second storm to hit the UK this week, after Storm Dudley.