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Bad weather: Accountants battle the beast from the east

1st Mar 2018
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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, 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.”

Business policy

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.”

Further reading

For more extensive advice and resources, refer back to these sources in AccountingWEB’s archive and elsewhere:

Replies (9)

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By johnjenkins
02nd Mar 2018 10:22

You should have been about in the winter of 1962/63. Now that was cold doing a paper round but the tips were great, bought me my first racing bike (Claud Butler).
My wife comes from Bolton and this is heaven to her.
So let's enjoy nature for a couple of days and chill out.

Thanks (1)
Replying to johnjenkins:
By Michael C Feltham
02nd Mar 2018 11:36

Sadly, John, I well remember the big freeze of 1947-48.

It was so cold, the water mains froze! As a little lad I had to assist my Mum by going out to the daily water tanker with jugs, buckets, bowls for water! I was six...

Then, of course, there was, as you say, 1962 which went on well into 1963. It was my 21st birthday.

Next was 1978-79...

Then there was 1982: I remember it well.

We have lived on the coast, now, for quite some time: right at the end of the Thames estuary, with the North Sea a spit away and the weather tends to come in from Russia...

The media, desperate for news not related to the endless meanderings and mutterings of Brexit, tend to escalate any event from a molehill into a mountain.

Worth remembering, perhaps, how back in the late 1940s central heating was not normal for residential property. Same in 1962 and even late 1970s.

Motor cars were archaic; tyres mainly useless, without snow chains and heaters not as effective.

It's Winter; it snows, here and there.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Michael C Feltham:
By johnjenkins
02nd Mar 2018 13:00

Michael, don't be sad. Apart from Roman and Victorian times you have seen the biggest manufactured change to life, although not all good.
Just think what the next 200 years will bring, that's, of course, if Brexit and the snow don't get in the way.

Thanks (0)
Replying to johnjenkins:
By Michael C Feltham
05th Mar 2018 11:10

John, if possible, I would more than happily return to the 1950s.

People, today, have in general become utter wimps.

At my Grammar school, September 1953 onwards, the lower school (years one two and three) were compelled to wear short, knee length trousers. Woolly socks, pulled up to the knee. The school was divided into two rectangular sections and in the centre of each quadrangle was grass; open to the atmosphere. At the beginning of each day, pupils lined up two abreast, awaiting for the form master to admit them to the classrooms. In Winter it was bloody cold!

However people walked and cycled everywhere; or took a bus, which meant queueing in the cold, wet, snow whatever.

In the mornings, there was ice on the INSIDE of bedroom windows, in Winter! Flooring was mainly lino and if one was lucky, a small mat to stand on to fit slippers and a thick woollen dressing gown. After diving out from beneath a down filled eiderdown and warm sheets, it was bloody cold!

The centre of most family homes was the kitchen, since it usually had a coke/anthracite fuelled boiler. Living rooms fires were not lit until afternoon/evening.

Until the early 1960s and government home improvements, the "Privy" was in the garden! And few had a bathroom: baths were taken in a big steel galvanised tub, once a week in the kitchen in front of the range/boiler.

Much of the housing stock were Victorian and early Edwardian terraces.

It is no wonder, to me, that such as the Desert Rats could survive the privation of combat conditions in WWII.

I was most fortunate, since my late Father was a very successful and wealthy businessman: however a majority of relatives were not...

Thanks (1)
By Silver Birch Accts
02nd Mar 2018 11:27

I have read above about power cuts, surely not we cannot allow that in the bright new MTD utopia envisaged by our Lords and Masters.
Will a' beast from the east' be an allowed reason not to file in the future.
The bright new digital world will be heavily reliant on power, uninterrupted power, supplies. The UK of today wilts at bit a of snow and a high wind. Those of us born back in the 1950's this weeks weather is nothing.
Crikey, even IKEA has shut and their from Sweden!
No power, no MTD I like that

Thanks (2)
By Husbandofstinky
02nd Mar 2018 12:32

Basin trap in the office toilet appears to be frozen (sink backed up). The waste pipe from the sink sounds empty so that's where the money is on. Hot water is sitting in the basin and hopefully it will start to drop. Taking the trap off looks like a disaster as it has been on there years complete with some mastic. Happy days.

Thanks (0)
By Peter Cane
02nd Mar 2018 12:46

Best news story I've read about this week is the Chatham Ski Centre which had to close because there was too much snow.

Thanks (1)
By rememberscarborough
02nd Mar 2018 14:01

Just tried to ring the VAT man to try and pay them early (their mistake but easier for me to correct) but they're shut because of the weather - silver lining?

Thanks (0)
By AndrewV12
13th Mar 2018 11:34

Now its all gone The beast from the east...
Hysteria from Siberia.

Thanks (0)