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When The Red Mist Descends A.K.A Dealing With Severe Weather in The Workplace!

Readers will remember that earlier this year during the extreme cold snap affectionately referred to as the ‘Beast from the East’ I posted a blog on how employers should deal with their employees when they were simply not able to get to work due to the adverse weather conditions.

At that time, in the absence of any formal legal or regulatory framework, my guidance was  based on what experience had taught me on how employers should deal with their staff during adverse weather conditions. 

However, I wasn’t the only one paying attention to the beastly effects! It looks like the Scottish Government was also paying attention as on 16 November 2018, the Scottish Government in conjunction with the STUC published its Fair Work Charter for Severe Weather. The Charter isn’t a legal or mandatory document but is

The Charter states that it provides : “a set of guiding principles to support employers and workers to plan for and manage the impact of severe weather.

The Charter does not have legal force.

It states that “It is neither mandatory nor prescriptive; rather it promotes fair working practices and encourages shared responsibility and mutual respect between workers and employers in developing their response.”

However, it then goes on to state that it strongly, “recommends that all employers have in place a severe weather policy which reflects the following principles, and that the policy is adopted across all organisations.”

So what are those principles? 

There are four:

  1. Caring and Responsible;
  2. Collaboration;
  3. Communication; and
  4. Fairness.

 

So what’s the ethos of those principles:

  1. Under Caring and Responsible, the charter states that: “the health, safety and wellbeing of workers must be the priority.  Workers should not be put at risk by attending or attempting to attend their place of work.”

 

The Charter then goes on to suggest that risk assessments are carried out and ensuring that the health, safety of wellbeing of workers is not compromised.

 

       2. Under Collaboration

“All employers should have a clear and visible severe weather policy which has been discussed and agreed with workers and/or unions.”

The Charter then goes on to state what workers should do when Met Office warnings are issued, and for employers it asks them to consider the worker’s ability to get to and from their workplace as well as carrying out their job safely.  It also suggests that employers encourage flexible working enabling those who can to work from home.

 

  1. Under Communication,

“All workers should be aware of the severe weather policy as it affects them and understand clearly what they are expected to do in specific circumstances.”

The Charter goes on to explain that the policy should be visible and encouraging workers at all levels to consider the implications of the policy for them.

 

  1. Under Fairness,

“Contracts should have the flexibility to cover the periods of severe weather and where possible reflect the fair weather policy.”

The Charter then goes on to state that employers should be considering how employment contracts for those who are ready and able to work can avoid penalising those workers with unexpected reduced pay and take all reasonable steps to ensure that the employment relationships are maintained.

As an employer you should therefore be thinking about whether roles can be carried out flexibly; is it absolutely essential that the employee is in the business premises to carry out the duties of their jobs?

 

Chances are that your customers and clients are unable to be on the receiving end of any goods and services as the bad weather is likely to have affected them also. Is it absolutely imperative that the transaction happens that day?

Remember also that the adverse weather is only a short term problem.  Ensure that you don’t engender long term problems by being unreasonable with your employees and asking them to meet unnecessary demands which are risks for them in terms of their health, safety and wellbeing.

The best way to ensure that your employees know what is expected of them is as the Scottish Government Charter suggests, have a severe weather policy in place.  It’s always best to be proactive and ensure that that policy is in place now, rather than reactive once the bad weather hits.

The Government’s charter can be found here

If you require an adverse weather policy to be put in place, or if you want to ensure that your current policy matches the terms of the Fair Work Charter for Severe Weather then please contact our Julie Sullivan.

Without wishing to be cynical, the last thing you want is for your employees to be the ones advising you of what the terms of the Charter so make sure they know that you know that they know!

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