So far so good, the weather this year has generally not been as bad as it was the last but ACAS have nonetheless issued some guidance for employers on what to do when the bad winter weather strikes. Last year heavy snow prevented many employees from being able to attend their workplace and productivity dropped as a result.

Employees need to be clear on what the policy is when they do not attended work due to bad weather, for example that they are not automatically entitled to pay. Employer's on the other hand, need to be flexible and to try to enable staff to make use of alternative methods of work through the use of technology for example.

It's not just the lack of being able to attend work due to weather that becomes an issue this time of year but also the fact that illnesses such as flu increase the time staff spend off sick. They should be aware of sickness policies and the need to call in on the first day of their sickness. In addition a return to work meeting will be held when they are fit enough to return and this is the usual practice not a checking up exercise as such. However, other illnesses such as stress and depression are often also exacerbated by the dark weather and employers should remain on notice of this fact especially of they are hoping to reduce the numbers of people on long-term sickness.

Employees are usually entitled to 5.6 weeks paid annual leave whether full or part time and employers can choose when some of this time off should be taken. It is often the case that a day spent off work due to inability to get in to work for reasons such as failed public transport is taken as annual leave. Clearly this is not what an employee would hope for and this is another reason why wherever possible employer's should seek out more flexible working methods and patterns. If an employee knows that they can get to work later that day once the weather has cleared up a bit for example and make up the hours later on this will improve productivity rather than simply losing out on a day of work.

Another issue is that the christmas party season inevitably results in a flurry of requests for time off and this is true year on year. As such it is something which employers can plan for in advance.  They are advised by ACAS to have in place clear written procedures available not only in relation to time off sick but on how and when to book time off for holidays. This will prevent  employees from being disappointed if they are aware of the numbers who can reasonably be allowed a day off on any one day and the kind of notice that needs to be given.

For more information on how to plan ahead and avoid conflicts later see the ACAS guidance available on their website.

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