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.

BrightHR Team

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 rules are imposed by The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007, which states employers have a duty to ensure the room temperature at workstations is appropriate for the working methods used and the physical demands on employees.

For example, an office environment must be kept at a minimum temperature of 17.5°C after the first hour worked. And if you can’t do this? 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 and you can lay them off.

But make sure to check your employment contract first. If you don’t have a clause in the contract giving you the right to lay off employees during a shortage of work, you will need to secure the agreement of staff before laying them off.

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 1800 279 841 to speak to an adviser today.