Managing absence throughout bad weather or travel disruption

Wednesday December 18, 2019

Getting to work on time during the winter can be a real struggle for some people. Heavy wind and rain can heighten the volume of rush hour traffic. Then there’s the chance of road closures due to flood maintenance or fallen trees after a storm. Add to this train timetable changes, and you might be looking at the clock wondering where a large percentage of your workers are. That is, if you were lucky enough to make it in yourself!

Commuter challenges

You may be thinking, surely people can set off earlier? This could be a solution for some, but not all. For example, working parents who take their kids to school during their commute may find this difficult. And if their child’s school closes due to adverse winter weather conditions, this can further delay their journey whilst arranging childcare.

Employees who can bring forward their journey to pre-empt disruption of public transport can still be faced with overcrowding on a reduced service, as they will not be the only ones who decided to set off earlier than usual. There is also the possibility of bad weather making it unsafe to attempt commuting, at which point waiting out a storm would be better.

With all the external variables outside of our control, winter commuting can sometimes feel like a challenging assault course, the muddy kind. Employees that eventually make it in might be a bit windswept to say the least, and so showing a little appreciation for their perseverance should be well received.

Whether it’s chaotic weather or train delays and strikes, you may well be wondering how your business is going to operate on skeleton staff, or no staff at all! We’ve got you covered.

A little planning goes a long way

If all of the above is sounding a bit too close to home, it’s time to activate your bad weather contingency plan. Having a plan in place for adverse weather or disastrous conditions can see your business continue to operate through severe winter circumstances. For your plan to work effectively, consider the following and ensure that it is well communicated to all employees.

Reiterate your absence policy – Staff struggling to get to work must let you know as soon as possible and keep you informed about their delay. It is their responsibility to get to work and unauthorised absences will not be tolerated. Remind them that if they absolutely cannot make it to work, they can take annual leave if they have any remaining, or it will be recorded as unpaid leave.

Consider seasonal temps – If your business has a high demand for customer service at this time of year, think about hiring seasonal temporary workers to ensure that you have enough cover. They’ll need to be hired and trained up in advance, so leave yourself enough time for “right to work” checks, contracts and a streamlined induction.

Acknowledge carer’s leave – Dependant emergency leave is in place to allow an employee to take unpaid time off to care for a dependant in an unforeseen circumstance. An employee may need to arrange emergency care due to school closures or other care related cancellations. Seasonal cover or flexible work options can help you to cope in the meantime.

Suggest flexible working hours – If it can work for your business, give staff the option to make up lost time through flexible working. A delayed start time or later finish can help them to navigate painful commuter delays. Just make sure that any changes to working hours still meet the Working Time Regulations.

Offer the option to work from home – Many businesses with an online function can continue to operate with staff working from home. If you have questions about how this might work for your business, ask us.

Call for clarification – Your bad weather plan should have you all set. But if HR questions arise due to unforeseen circumstances, our advice line is here to help. Call or email us for clarification, and if you follow our advice from the onset of an issue, you’re covered by employment tribunal insurance.

Preventing People Problems

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