How extreme does the weather have to be to warrant a day off work?

With Storm Ciara in full force and Storm Dennis on the way, we all need to brace ourselves for disruptions to travel and work. Here’s what employers need to know when the cold weather strikes.

Wednesday, Aug 12, 2020
2 min read

If you’re running a business, severe weather isn’t just inconvenient, it messes with your livelihood, too. So how do you handle the severe weather this winter? Let’s take a look…

When to crank up the heating

Firstly, you have to keep the temperature up in your workplace, even when it’s plummeted outside.

The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states:

“Employers are obliged to assess risks to health and safety where necessary (i.e. if the workplace temperature drops below the minimum guideline or if it felt the temperature is too high).”

This means that if the temperature in the workplace falls below 16°C (or below 13°C if the work requires physical effort) then you must do everything you can to manage and control it to keep your staff warm.

And if you can’t? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that later on…

When your staff can’t get to work

Okay, so you’ve got your workplace nice and toasty, but what if your staff can’t actually get there?

It all comes down to health and safety. You can’t make someone take a journey that’s unsafe, but you don’t necessarily have to pay them either…

Any employee who doesn’t show up for work isn’t meeting the terms of their contract, even if there’s a snowstorm outside, and there’s no law that says you should pay them if they’re not in work.

But while there’s no legal obligation to fork out the cash, choosing to pay your staff might be better for your business. It’ll keep staff morale high when the temperature’s low, as well as help keep your reputation as the excellent employer you are.

When to let people work from home

If your staff can’t make it into work, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a day off.

Allowing employees to work from home doesn’t suit every business, but it’s a great way to keep your business running smoothly without staff having to brave the blizzards or an icy journey.

When it’s time to close your business

Hopefully it won’t happen, but if you can’t open your business because it’s too cold, your workplace has flooded, or any other winter-related issue—then that’s when the law comes in.

If you’re just closed for a day or two you might choose to continue to pay your employees as normal, but you don’t need to do this—you can lay off payment from day one of closure.

If you can’t open your business for a longer period of time, it’s probably not feasible for you to keep paying people. But you do need to pay them Statutory Guarantee Pay (SGP) if they’ve worked for you for longer than a month, to help them with the loss of earnings.

Create a severe weather policy

If you don’t already have one, it’s worth putting a severe weather policy in place before the worst of the winter weather hits.

Not sure where to start? You can download our severe weather policy template to inspire your own, or speak to one of our friendly BrightAdvice experts who’ll tell you everything you need to know. Call 0800 783 2806 to speak to an adviser today.


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