“Earlier on today a woman rang the BBC and said she had heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you are watching, don’t worry, there isn’t.” Michael Fish, BBC weather presenter.

That infamous quote preceded one of the worst storms to ever hit the British Isles, highlighting just how unpredictable extreme weather can be. As a business owner, you need to be ready to react, to snow, ice, torrential rain, floods or high temperatures.

Whatever the weather throws at you, there are lots of ways you can prepare. As we outline in this article.

Create a Bad Weather Plan

Bad weather is more than a storm in a teacup: it comes with a range of safety hazards, logistical problems and resource challenges. To avoid entering a complete disaster zone, it’s well worth having a bad weather plan.

Start by writing a policy so managers and staff know what to do when bad weather strikes. Whatever your policy (and it will depend on your location and sector), be clear about:

  • What will happen if bad weather occurs while staff are at work:
    • Set out who is responsible for monitoring weather and its impact on your operations
    • The process for communicating any change in working practices to staff
    • An evacuation process if weather is so terrible you need to abandon your premises
    • Where employees should store any equipment so it stays safe in the event of a shutdown or poor weather
    • What to do about important work that cannot be delayed, for example identify whether staff can work from home
  • What staff should do if poor weather rolls in over night:
    • Set out situations when employees should check whether to come into work, for example, when there’s heavy snow
    • Who employees should contact, by what time and by what means
    • How staff should keep abreast of any updates on the situation
    • Whether you expect all or certain staff to work from home (if possible) or to work flexibly, for example by coming in later if snow melts
  • What to do if the weather is not so bad as to halt operations:
    • Restrict travel to important business trips only
    • Advise staff to take public transport which tends to be safer than driving in poor weather
    • Relax your dress code to enable staff to wear warmer or cooler clothing
    • Allow extra breaks to make hot or cold drinks

You should also have a section in your policy that explains what employees should do if bad weather means they can’t come in to work due to a school shutdown. Anyone who’s responsible for a dependent is entitled to a reasonable amount of time off to deal with an emergency involving the individual.

There’s no legal obligation to pay your employee but, if you choose to do so, ensure you apply this approach consistently.

Take Sensible Steps to Keep Your Business Running

There are a number of practical measures you can take to keep your business functioning. Consider investing in extra heating or cooling equipment like portable heaters or fans so you’re ready to keep staff comfortable and maintain productivity in extreme temperatures.

If home working is possible for your employees, you’ll need to ensure you have the right technology and a flexible working policy in place to keep your business open. But if work cannot be completed from another location, you might want to investigate insurance to mitigate any losses arising from an inability to fulfil your contractual obligations.

Be Clear on Employee Pay During Shutdowns

If it isn’t possible for your employees to work from another location, you need to be clear on your pay policy. Delayed or absent employees who can’t make it into work because of bad weather or travel disruption are not automatically entitled to be paid for any missed hours of work.

Asking employees to make up the time, resulting in no reduction in pay, is probably the best option to ensure engagement. This approach will also enable staff to catch up with their workload ensuring better service provision for your customers.

There are instances where your staff will be entitled to their normal pay, specifically if:

  • you decide to close your offices fully or partly or reduce the hours of work for your employees
  • essential staff, like managers, are unable to get to work or the person who provides access to your offices cannot make it in

Don’t Forget Your Health and Safety Obligations

Extreme heat and cold has been more common in recent years. So it’s worth noting that, in certain temperatures, you have a legal duty to prevent staff from working.

Contrary to popular opinion, there’s no legal minimum or maximum temperature that dictates when employees must put down the tools of their job. Instead, you need to provide a level of reasonable comfort. Guidance places this at around 16°C for people doing less labour-intensive work indoors and 13°C for those undertaking physical activity.

What’s classed as reasonable will depend on the environment. For example, bakers would expect a very different temperature from office workers.

Fail to prepare for bad weather and you’re preparing to fail. But by putting a bad weather policy in place, you’ll be in the best position to keep your employees safe and salvage something from the situation by keeping your business running.

Not sure exactly which health and safety laws you need to comply with in your business? Get in touch with Crosse HR on 0330 555 1139 or at hello@crossehr.co.uk and we’ll ensure your plans keep you in the clear.