Cold Weather Advice for Employers

When autumn and winter arrive, we will be digging out coats, scarves and gloves from the deepest depths of our wardrobes.

Colds will start spreading around the office, bad weather will cause travel mayhem and annual leave requests for the Christmas and New Year period will begin to flood in.

It can be a nightmare time for employers, so here are some top tips.


People get sick all year around, but at this time of year, employees are more prone to colds, coughs and the flu. It is good practice to promote good hygiene practices in the workplace to avoid the spreading of germs and to encourage the use of the flu vaccination.

Having a clear sickness policy that outlines who the employee needs to call, how they should contact their manager, by what time they must notify their absence and the rules on certificates is recommended. Failure by the employee to follow this can lead to disciplinary action and frequent absence can be dealt with if it impacts the organisation. 

Bad Weather

Adverse weather conditions can mean unsafe driving conditions, road closures, reduced or cancelled public transport and school closures. As a result, employees may find it hard to get into work or be forced to take unpaid leave to look after their children. You should try to be as flexible as possible.

Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees; therefore you should never encourage your employees to drive in dangerous weather conditions. Consider whether there is someone who can cover the work at short notice, if the employee can work from home or a work site that is closer to them or if they can make up the time at a later date.

There may be circumstances where it is necessary to close the workplace because a large number of employees cannot come into work or the weather affects the core business. If you have to close the workplace and the employee does not work from home, employers cannot typically deduct pay. However, if you provide sufficient notice, you may ask your employees to use some of their annual leave. It is always important to speak to an Employment Law specialist first before making this decision.

It is important to note that there is no automatic legal right to be paid if the employee cannot get into work and do their job, but you may be required to pay if you have any contractual or customary arrangements in place. If you decide that you will pay for absence as a result of bad weather or travel issues, make it clear to your employees that this is for a limited period only.

If bad weather conditions are plaguing you year after year, consider implementing a policy which establishes how you deal with lateness, absences and pay matters and communicating it to your staff.

Annual Leave Requests

The festive season and the end of the annual leave year can lead to HR Managers receiving a surge of annual leave requests. The most important priority is that all employees are treated fairly and consistently.

If everyone wants to have the same days off, you could grant leave on the basis of “first come, first served”. You could also consider allowing people to choose between time off at Christmas or at New Year. Alternatively, if someone does not get the time off they requested at Christmas, they could be given priority when they are booking leave for their summer holiday.

Encourage your team to collaborate with each other to coordinate leave to ensure operational business requirements are met and issues are quickly resolved. If the nature of your business means that it is not that busy during the festive period, you could consider closing down for a few days or making it mandatory for people to take time off.

Contact Ellis Whittam to see how we can assist you with these types of challenges.

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