Media Release: Firms urged to ensure business does not grind to a halt in bad weather

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THE winter weather can prove a nightmare for businesses, particularly those with employees travelling to and from rural locations.

However, one of Scotland’s leading independent employment law, HR and health and safety firms is doing its bit to keep the North-east economy ticking over during the festive period.

Empire, which is headquartered in Aberdeen with offices in Glasgow, is offering local businesses advice on how to cope with any winter disruption.

Director at Empire, PJ Chalmers, says it’s important that firms take steps to protect themselves at this time of year:

“Last winter had a significant impact on business, not only in the North-east but across the UK. An increase in absenteeism due to bad weather can hit businesses hard, both in terms of productivity and income.

“However, there are simple procedures that can help organisations avoid the potential pitfalls that winter can bring.”

A recent report estimated that around a third of the UK workforce was impacted by severe weather in December 2012. The same report also suggested that the knock on effect of this mass absence was a half a billion pounds dent in the economy.

Mr Chalmers says that by following the correct advice, firms in the region can weather the winter storm this year: “Icy roads and heavy snowfall can cause major headaches for employers, particularly in the North-east where many staff travel to their workplace from rural or relatively isolated areas.

“The most vital provision that an employer can make is to ensure that its employees fully understand their responsibilities and what is required of them in the event of adverse weather.

“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each employee to assess whether they will be able to travel to their workplace safely. If an employee determines they will not be able to do so, or they have a sudden onset of childcare issues due to an event such as a school closure, then Empire always recommends they should contact their line manager as soon as possible.”

Certainly, Mr Chalmers advises that effective communication is key to effectively dealing with absence:

“After a conversation between employee and line manager to ascertain the necessary information, it is up to the line manager to determine whether every reasonable effort has been made to make it into work, and whether it is acceptable to grant the employee any paid or unpaid time off work.

“Furthermore, if it is deemed that the employee has not made a reasonable attempt to attend work, it may be classified as an unauthorised absence and, in some cases, this can result in disciplinary action.

“Crucially, as is the case with any policy, it is important that staff are fully aware of their responsibilities in relation to adverse weather and that they understand what to do if they are impacted. Whilst the weather can be relatively unpredictable, what is within the control of an organisation is to ensure that the response of its employees is predictable.”

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Contact: Craig Hamilton
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