The winter season brings additional HR challenges for businesses including, adverse weather, workplace temperatures, annual leave requests, celebrations in the workplace and managing sickness absence. We break down these topics to help you to manage these challenges.
Adverse weather can have a significant impact on business continuity and can cause difficulties that businesses might not have planned for. Employers have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their employees and they shouldn’t encourage travel in dangerous conditions. An adverse weather policy can assist you in identifying where you stand if adverse weather events occur and show how they will be managed.
An adverse weather policy should include how communications will be made regarding any closures or alternative working arrangements made, pay arrangements and how to handle emergency school closures, to name a few. It is always useful to remind colleagues of procedures if forecasts are bad and warnings are given.
There is no obligation to pay employees if they cannot come to work due to the weather, however, alternatives can be put in place to help with business continuity. Alternatives include employees working in another location, making up their hours another day or working from home where possible. If employees already work from home, a risk assessment should be completed to ensure they are safe to work from home as the employer can be liable. As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for people working at home as for any other worker.
If the workplace has to shut down due to health and safety risks, employees are entitled to pay in line with the lay off clause in their contract.
If employees with children face school closures, employees are entitled to emergency dependants leave which is in place for people to arrange alternative arrangements during that time but isn’t considered to be unlimited time off.
An adverse weather policy can help aid decisions to ensure fairness and consistency. If you would like a policy, please contact a member of the team and we can help create one tailored to your business.
During the winter, there is an increased risk of heating systems breaking down and an increased risk of accidents occurring at low temperatures. It is important to know that 16 degrees is considered to be the lowest reasonable temperature for an office-based workplace. Also, it is important to be hyper vigilant around slips and trips during this time and to increase preventative measures.
Annual Leave Requests
It is key to have a process for annual leave requests around busy periods for the benefit of the employees as well as the business. We recommend having a deadline for when holiday can be booked for time off around Christmas and other religious holidays, and to have a process for how the time off can be shared between employees, such as a first come, first serve. It is important to promote collaboration with employees and confirm Christmas arrangements in advance.
Celebrations in the Workplace
It is important to remain inclusive and incorporate everybody over the holiday period as various religious celebrations occur at the same time, such as Hanukkah. It is crucial to highlight inclusivity when arranging social events to celebrate the holiday period. For instance, having guidelines set out for secret santa, holding events that are accessible to all and ensuring events aren’t all based around alcohol. It is essential to emphasise social media guidelines and for employees to be aware that the disciplinary procedure can be invoked for poor behaviour or incidents at work events, outside of working day.
Sickness absence tends to be at its highest in the winter months due to increased likelihood of cold and flu viruses. Communication is key to support colleagues and to manage absence levels so it’s always advisable to complete return to work interviews. Return to work interviews are vital in supporting the employee and finding out information how you can help them return to work and make any reasonable adjustments.
A detailed record of absence can help identify patterns and trends which ensures consistency and fairness when handling specific cases of high levels of sickness absence.
If you would like any support on any of the topics above, please contact any member of the team and we will be happy to help.