Bad weather: Accountants battle the beast from the east
This week the UK has been battered by weather from Siberia. As conditions worsen, the Met Office has issued various red warnings for blizzard-like conditions. Valme Claro reports on the current situation and offers some remedial advice.
The heavy snow and temperatures as low as -10 degrees in some areas have caused transport havoc across the UK with disruption on the road and rail network as well as flight cancellations.
How are businesses supposed to deal with weather conditions that have not been seen for almost a decade? Depending on the local and business circumstances, Gov.uk suggests options ranging from prompting staff to take paid holiday, to working from home or making up time later.
But if the workplace is closed due to weather disruption and employees cannot work from home, employers cannot deduct pay. Ultimately, however, procedures around travel disruption should be outlined in the employment contract or staff handbook, so the position can vary from one company to another.
Although rare, weather disruption on this scale is a regular occurrence. The last big freeze happened in 2010, when 20% of workers were unable to get to work, resulting in a £1.2bn hit to the UK economy. Going back to that episode, AccountingWEB compiled a list of bad weather survival tips for business. The suggestions included using technology to work remotely and putting appropriate policies and precautions in place.
As the tabloid brayed about the “beast from the east”, AccountingWEB members discussed the situation with the worst weather yet to come.
“The UK does like a snow panic. Anyone who spends time in Sweden in winter appreciates that what we get here is negligible,” said AccountingWEB member DJKL member in Any Answers.
But the effects were already being felt north of the border as a blizzard swept into the Scottish central belt on Wednesday evening.
“We are in Central Scotland, right in the middle of Glasgow and Edinburgh so are in the red warning area,” marks reported on Thursday morning. “No chance of getting anywhere today. About two foot of snow here and seems that no one else has moved as there are cars in all the driveways. Looks like [it] will be Monday before back in office.”
Working from home
The most popular for AccountingWEB members was to work from home. Others including legerman ventured outside: “I did debate working from home, but a deadline to finish and the bigger monitor better to work with my computer at home playing up today, so that settled it.”
Going to the office wasn’t the most productive option for some members. Mrme89 arrived at work 30 minutes late on Wednesday morning and found that other colleagues were running late too.
“We couldn't do any work as power was intermittent” he said. “We have just done half an hour of work without the power going off.”
Organisational responses to the kinds of disruption experienced this week should be part of a good business continuity plan. Where some employers still expect to see employees at the office no matter what, employment law and common sense suggest it is better not to risk staff health and safety.
Where employees are required to drive for work, employers also have a duty of care to allow drivers extra time to complete journeys – and that they are not pressurised to undertake journeys made dangerously difficult by the weather.
It is important for employers to communicate alternative options to their staff when going to the office is risky and being understanding if employees need to leave early. “I suspect we will consider calling it a day circa 3:30,” DJKL said on Wedensday. “Staff that have to go South and West may have issues as snow lying is reported as heavier.”
In the same vein, mrme89 commented: “It's best to lose a few hours work to ensure that we get home safely.”
Looking on the bright side
This time, although the weather disrupted some AccountingWEB members, others weren’t so bothered. “I’m in my slippers,” said lionofludesch. “It’s times like these that working from home is such a godsend.”
Selaen wanted to vent at “nitwits” driving at 10mph in their 4x4s, but could also see the bright side of the situation: “The city had no electricity till 7.30am this morning. Other than that? I have my heater, my hot chocolate and the sun is shining. Could be worse.”
For more extensive advice and resources, refer back to these sources in AccountingWEB’s archive and elsewhere: