Media Release: Bertha brews up a storm for travelling employees

PJ Chalmers, Director of Empire[2] 2

WITH the arrival of hurricane Bertha a few weeks ago, it is clear that the Scottish weather can be very unpredictable, potentially causing a tremendous amount of disruption to individuals travelling to work.

Begins a spokesperson: “In the height of the bad weather, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) issued almost 40 flood warnings covering the Aberdeenshire, Speyside, Moray, Caithness and Sutherland and Tayside areas, which caused major problems for commuters but also for employers.

“As an employer, it is important to appreciate the difficulties some employees may face when travelling to their place of work; however, it is equally as important to ensure provisions are in place to allow day-to-day services to continue for clients and customers.”

Aberdeen-based HR and employment law company, Empire, suggests companies should have extreme weather policies in place to ensure employees are aware of the procedures in the event of adverse weather.

Director at Empire, PJ Chalmers, said: “Adverse weather can have a significant impact on businesses and it is essential that they have the correct policies in place and share these accordingly with their staff.

“It is paramount to the businesses productivity that employees are fully aware and understand their responsibilities and what is required of them in situations where adverse weather may affect their working schedule.”

Here is a snapshot of some points to consider:

Stay in contact

Ensuring employees understand that keeping employers informed of their travel progress is vital to the smooth running of the day-to-day business. Encouraging individuals to contact and discuss the situation with the line manager promptly is crucial to allow time to prepare other staff for late arrivals and possible absence.

By establishing the importance of employees communicating their absence quickly, this will help reduce possible tensions in the office with other members of staff, which may occur.

Employee responsibility

Members of staff should be prompted to think about their adverse weather plans in advance and alternative routes and methods of getting to work should be planned.

Travel can be effected greatly in stormy or bad weather, with public transport potentially being cancelled or operating on reduced times, and delays in road travel due to road closures and slow driving.

It is ultimately the responsibility of the employee to decide whether or not they believe it is safe to travel into work.  Employees should only stay at home if they feel this is the last possible measure which should be taken.

Be understanding

If employees do not turn up for work without prior warning, employers have the right to not pay individuals.  Nonetheless, it is extremely important that employers show empathy and understand that certain circumstances can cause disruption for employees.

If it is obvious that an employee has not attempted to try and venture into work this could be classed as an unauthorised absence, which could potentially result in disciplinary action.  However, employers need to understand that, in certain circumstances, it is safer for employees to work from home.

Is it worth it?

In the case that employees cannot physically make it into the office because of the unpredictable forecast, some businesses will have technology in place with external platforms for employees to access work out of the office, presenting the opportunity to work from home.

Although the employee is not physically in the office, they may be safer at home in extremely bad weather conditions and this can prove more productive than attempting to get into the office sitting in traffic for long periods of time.

Be flexible

It is vital in this situation to be flexible, it is understandable that the weather is effecting individual routes, be that fallen trees, flooding and even excess traffic on the roads.

As an employer it is important to show some level of adaptability and by doing so, this can increase morale and productivity as employees do not feel under pressure to ensure they are in the office for a set time.

Within the extreme weather policy employers should include what employees will be required to do when trying to get into work on time and outline how the day-to-day work of the business will continue.

It is advisable to include a copy of the policy in the company handbook to ensure there is no confusion regarding the expectations of employees and it should also cover issues such as how late arrivals will be dealt with and how it could affect wages.

The HR and employment law firm, which is headquartered in Aberdeen, offers a free online adverse weather policy for employees and employers, which can be downloaded from http://www.empirehr.com/news/general/free-adverse-weather-policy/.

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Contact: Julia Bryce
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