Employers advised to put measures in place to reduce the potential business impact
Employers have a duty of care for all employees under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act
Employers are advised to remain vigilant this week in relation to the anticipated worsening of weather conditions over the next couple of days and the possibility of a “Red weather warning” being issued later on in the week. If this occurs, this will be the first Red warning we have experienced since Hurricane Ophelia in October.
Unlike Ophelia, we now have the opportunity to prepare for this event and we advise employers to take time to put measures in place to reduce the potential business impact this warning could have.
During Ophelia, widespread business closures occurred at short notice. While it is very possible that business closures will not be necessary on this occasion, businesses should prepare for the possibility.
As employers have a duty of care for all employees under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, a key consideration needs to be whether, in the circumstances, it is safe to ask employees to travel to work, or to undertake their work. The potential risk could be greater for certain roles or in certain sectors (e.g. “on-the-road” sales positions or in the construction sector where outside work is required).
Consider how a business decision will be made as to whether or not closure is necessary. Will work automatically be called off if a Status Red warning is issued? Will other circumstances be taken into consideration (i.e. the employee’s work environment?). Who will make the decision and more importantly, how will this decision be communicated to employees?
You should ensure you have up to date contact information for all employees within the organisation in case a last minute decision needs to be communicated to staff members.
Where your employment contracts allow for a period of “lay off,” you may want to put employees on notice that this clause could be invoked at short notice later on in the week.
Should the business be forced to close, you should consider the likely impact this will have on customers/clients. A plan should be put in place as to how this will be communicated. Consider whether any steps can be put in place to reduce the impact on customers. For example, is remote working a possibility for your employees? Would this help to diminish the impact on your customers/clients? Is there a contact number that could be provided in the event of an urgent issue arising?
Where a business closure does not occur, you should ensure employees are aware who they should contact in the event that they are unable to attend work due to the weather conditions. Flexibility should be allowed for employees, especially those who have some distance to travel. Where employees are present in the workplace, care should be taken to remain vigilant for any worsening conditions and cancelled/amended travel services throughout the day. Consideration should also be given to how long it will take somebody to commute home safely.