Coping with Snow Days as an SME
Remember when you were a child and your school got closed for a snow day? The elation! The freedom! The sledging! Unfortunately like many things that thrilled us as children, snow days don’t tend to evoke the same emotion in adulthood, especially if you are a small business owner! So far this winter we’ve mainly avoided snow disruption, but as the climate becomes more unpredictable, we should be prepared for anything to happen between now and the Spring. It’s important to have a plan in place that can be actioned at short notice to ensure that your business is impacted as little as possible by the winter weather.
Create a bad weather policy
Having something down on paper, even if it’s just a list of bullet points detailing appropriate action to take, will save you time in the event of a weather emergency. It will also prevent your employees misunderstanding their rights and responsibilities, and save you time, as you can refer them to the policy for all queries.
Can I make staff work on a snow day?
What your staff can and can’t be made to do is covered in their employment contract. However, an obvious rule of thumb is that if they can’t get to work but they can work from home then they should do that! However, if you have some people whose roles can’t be carried out at home you need to make sure that you don’t penalise them for this when others are still being paid for their work at home.
If working from home isn’t an option, you can enforce annual leave, however you legally need to give at least 2 days’ notice of this, which is often not practical given the unpredictability of the British weather!
Employees have no legal right to be paid if they cannot get to work, so you may decide that snow days should be taken as unpaid leave. However it will depend what is in your employment contracts and also whether you wish to give discretionary paid leave, or allow the employee to work the hours back at another time, particularly if you have employees who you know rely on public transport and/or have to travel in from remote locations.
What if the schools are closed?
If an employee cannot come to work because their children’s school is closed, this would class as an emergency, and they would be legally entitled to take unpaid leave to look after their dependents. Some companies have policies in place that allow paid leave for such circumstances, but it depends what is in your contract of employment.
What if I have to close our premises?
As business leaders, we have to take the safety of our staff and customers extremely seriously. This means that there may be occasions on which it is simply too dangerous to open our premises. If you do decide to close, you are legally required to pay your staff as normal, whether they are able to work from home or not.
Once your adverse weather policy is in place, all you need is a nice big snowstorm to test it out! Sledges at the ready!!
To discuss ideas for protecting your business’s finances against the economic effects of adverse weather conditions or other emergency closures, speak to one of our advisors today.