Arctic conditions don’t have to leave UK workplaces snowed under

Arctic conditions don’t have to leave UK workplaces snowed under

Arctic conditions don’t have to leave UK
workplaces snowed under  

The severe weather already
affecting much of Britain and school closures affecting parts of the country do
not necessarily have to mean major problems for employers, suggests the
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. A combination of technology
and common sense on the part of employers and employees can minimise the impact
for many argues the Institute.

Where people can log in to
work from home – or where the time can be used to focus on thinking time, there
is a real opportunity to minimise the cost to business of the travel chaos.

However, many employers will
be affected, with many job roles not able to be fulfilled through home working
and other employees left with extra childcare responsibilities as schools close
down because of the snow.  In these cases
difficult decisions on how to manage employees who have not been able to make
it into work will have to be made.

Clake, Organisation and Resourcing Adviser at the CIPD

need to carefully consider opportunities and options available if the weather
conditions do stop employees making it in. Many companies that have put in
place the technology and management practices to allow home working, reap the
benefits at a time like this.

“The crude
millions-of-pounds estimates of the cost to the economy of bad weather often
don’t take into account the millions of motivated workers who will be
remotely  working or if access to emails
is not possible using the time to focus on planning or to reflecting on work
processes and practices.

Managing employees unable to
get to work or affected by school closures

“Of course, many types of
work simply cannot be done from home, and some employers may struggle to
operate their business.  These employers
will be working hard to get those employees who have made it in to operate the
business as best they can, even if that means turning their hands to tasks not
normally part of their day jobs.

“Employees can reasonably be
expected to do their best to get into work on foot, or where travel is less
badly affected.  Where employees are
genuinely unable to get in, and this can be demonstrated to the employer,
decisions will have to be taken as to whether to allow line managers to use
their discretion in granting special leave, whether to require employees to
take annual leave, or whether to shut down operations altogether.  There is no right or wrong answer to these
questions, but employers must take care to be consistent in the way that they
make the necessary decisions – guided by existing policies where relevant.

The need for common sense

“Overall, much of this comes
down to common sense.  Employees should
have the sense to try to get in without taking unnecessary risks.  But also to speak to their employers if they
are unable to get in, and not just treat the snow as automatic permission to
take an unannounced holiday.  Equally,
employers should make clear to employees that they should not risk life and
limb to get to work, and be understanding if employees need to leave early to
avoid getting stranded unnecessarily on their way home – particularly if
conditions worsen during the working day. 
Where employees are required to drive for work, employers also have a
health and safety duty to ensure drivers are allowed extra time to complete
journeys and factor in alternative routes – and that they are not pressurised
to complete any journeys made dangerously difficult by the weather.”

7 January 2010


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