Thursday, 02 November 2023 20:24

Dealing with Adverse Weather

The last few days has seen storm Ciarán adding to the exceptional rainfall already brought by storm Babet a little over a week ago. Consequently some areas of the UK have suffered with substantial flooding and with the ground already waterlogged, we are likely to see further flooding as the excess water makes it's way to inland watercourses.

We're becoming more accustomed to persistent bad weather in the UK. The deluges seem to come earlier, are more severe and are more numerous as every year passes. It seems a good time to revisit the subject of adverse weather policies and taking a look to see if your needs updating or amending, particularly with changes in our working habits and practices.

The default rules for employers when it comes to adverse weather for businesses are :

  • When a business is unable to open owing to adverse weather, but employees still make themselves available for work, then they should still be paid, as they are fulfilling, or attempting to fulfil, their duties under their contract of employment.
  • Conversely, should your business remain open during adverse weather, but your employees are unable or unwilling to get to work, then there is no obligation to pay them.

Since Covid, however, we have all learned to apply some flexibility as well as some common sense and leniency. Also, many more of us now work at least partially from home; or at least have some home working provision available. When we find our travel plans disrupted by the weather then, taking the option to work form home seems the obvious choice.

Indeed, many employers might expect their employees to carry on working from home when there is disruptive weather and/or the business is unable to open. But where there are jobs that cannot be done at home and the business doesn't open, is that fair?

There's not going to be a one size fits all here, so its a good reason to formalise working arrangements with your staff during times of weather disruption, be that rain, flooding or snow. We don't necessarily have to go as far as a change to terms of employment. That would require a period of consultation anyway. But we might want to have an arrangement for when adverse weather hits.

Leaving the decision to work from home to the employees may backfire at a later stage. It might be difficult to argue against them working from home when they are due in the workplace if the have already been given the autonomy to use their own discretion.

It will save a lot of time and uncertainty if your employees are clear and confident about what they should do and what is expected of them should adverse weather strike. We strongly recommend that all employers have a robust Adverse Weather Policy in place that clearly lays out how the organisation will act in cases of adverse weather and how its employees should behave. It should lay out the options available to employees and should also include how employees pay might be affected.

If you don’t already have an adverse weather policy or yours needs updating, we recommend that you take the appropriate action sooner rather than later. We can’t do anything about the weather, but we can be prepared to manage what we do when it turns bad.

Let's not forget those businesses that don't have a working from home option. Adverse weather can have dramatic consequences. For a shop, restaurant, factory or warehouse, the effects are likely be significant . The financial implications of lost productivity and sales can be extremely damaging on their own, and that’s before we factor in damage and further losses caused by flooding.

For some businesses, adverse weather may make it too dangerous for employees to be working; roof-workers in icy conditions for example. Here, a “lay-off” clause might be an appropriate solution and these days it's something we build onto every staff handbook.

If you would like further help or advice regarding a review of any of your policies, contracts or documentation, or indeed anything else related to HR and Employment Law, just call us on 01452 331331 or drop us an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 327 times Last modified on Thursday, 02 November 2023 20:54


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

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