2024 - Work and Adverse Weather Conditions

At the time of writing, we are experiencing a particularly cold winter snap, with snow and ice predicted for many parts of the UK. During these colder months, Employers need to be prepared for handling adverse weather conditions, to ensure their Employees can access the workplace and work safely, and that the business can continue to function.

This type of preparation includes advising Employees on safety, alternative travel options, flexible working and work-from-home options (where possible), and effects on pay in the event of an unavoidable absence or a temporary site closure.

This month’s blog will examine the key areas Employers should consider during adverse weather conditions, and the value of having an Adverse Weather Policy in place.

Severe Weather Conditions

An Employer may give a general advisory to all Employees on steps they should take to prepare themselves for travel to the workplace (and otherwise) in severe weather conditions.

Vehicle Safety

Advise Employees to ensure they carry out essential vehicle safety checks, before the arrival of severe weather, and at the start of their journeys.  This may include;

  • Checking tyre treads and pressures;
  • Checking oil and coolant levels;
  • Checking that screen wash is appropriate for the external temperature;
  • Checking lights are fully operational (including the fog lights); and
  • Checking windscreen wiper blades are in good condition.

There are also a number of items worth keeping inside the vehicle for use in the event of running into complications due to severe weather conditions;

  • A fully charged mobile phone;
  • Mobile phone charging leads;
  • A back-up device battery (i.e.: phone, tablet, laptop);
  • Jump leads;
  • A hazard warning triangle;
  • A tow rope;
  • A shovel;
  • An ice scraper or de icing spray;
  • A torch;
  • A blanket and/or warm clothes;
  • Suitable footwear (e.g.: wellington boots)
  • First aid kit;

Travel Disruption

The first and possibly the most significant issue that Employers consider during adverse weather conditions is their Employees’ ability to get to work. The colder months bring an increase in rain and fog, dramatically obscuring vision, with the dead of winter bringing a risk of snow and ice, leading to hazardous roads and pavements.

It is therefore advisable for all organisations to have an Adverse Weather Policy, which includes statements in relation to health and safety responsibilities when traveling to and from work, as well as for time in the workplace. The statements can relate to an Employee’s duty to take reasonable care while travelling, or to allow adequate extra time (where possible) for travel during adverse weather.

Many organisations offer alternative options/arrangements during severe weather. These include:

  • Allowing later start times, or earlier end times;
  • Allowing flexible working;
  • Allowing home working while adverse weather persists (where possible); and
  • Allowing Employees to take annual leave at short notice.

A Safe and Successful Commute

While an Employer cannot control every eventuality that could crop up along an Employee’s journey to work, they can offer advice to help circumnavigate potential problems and help keep Employees prepared and safe.


Advise Employees to plan their journey to work, including an alternative route if necessary, and to check their local weather forecast before they set off. The following may seem like a simple reminder, but even looking out of the window in fair time before starting a commute will advise an Employee as to whether they need to scrape ice off their windscreen – often a last-minute realisation and underestimated task that is one of the top causes of delays during wintertime.


With an increase in accidents during the winter months, it is worth advising Employees to keep a winter safety kit in their cars, which includes such items as a first aid kit, torch, spare batteries, warm blankets and snacks. Even a simple move such as ensuring a mobile phone is charged to 100% before departure could prove essential in an emergency situation, or where an Employee is stranded in traffic or adverse weather conditions enroute to work.

Leave Enough Time

With the aforementioned increase in accidents during the winter months, there are often lengthy tailbacks in traffic. Remind Employees of the importance of allowing extra time for travelling to and from work, either to accommodate possible delays, or to get ahead of the rush hour and avoid the high-risk accident periods.

School Closures

Another side effect of adverse weather conditions is the potential for school closures. This could be down to accessibility issues, utility breakdowns or health & safety issues. If an Employee’s child’s school closes, that Employee is entitled to unpaid time off to care for them short-term.

An Employer may advise Employees on arrangements they can make for childcare, or state any options they may offer for accommodating children in the workplace (where appropriate).

In this situation, it is important that communication between the Employee and Employer is as prompt and as clear as possible, establishing the issue of the school closure, and predicting how long they will need to be a way to care for their child.

Some Employees may wish to take this time off as annual leave so as not to lose pay.


Legally, an Employer is not obligated to pay Employees who do not come into work when the workplace remains open.

Unless they have a short-term Working/Layoff Policy, Employers are obligated to pay Employees their normal pay, even if they choose to partially close or fully close the business due to issues resulting from adverse weather conditions, such as a loss of utilities, an absence of essential staff members, or an issue of safe access to the premises.  Employers are also obligated to pay Employees if their absence from work is due to Employer-provided transport failing to run due to bad weather.

Some Employers may wish to pay Employees who cannot make it into work due to adverse weather conditions. This type of pay arrangement would need to be stated in an Adverse Weather Policy. That leads us nicely to the next topic…

An Adverse Weather Policy

Having an Adverse Weather Policy is the best preparation for supporting Employees, as well as protecting a business during adverse weather conditions. The content should ensure that Employees know what is expected of them in terms of health and safety; what support and provisions Employees can expect from their Employer; alternative arrangements for Employees who cannot make it into work; and what will happen with regards to pay.

A Policy should incorporate much of what we have discussed above, but here are the main aspects to include;

Employee Expectations

Clarify what is expected of Employees, in terms of attending work during adverse weather conditions (when it is viable). Communicate understanding that some situations, and resulting absences, will simply have to be accepted, particularly where getting to work involves the Employee putting themselves (or someone else) at risk, for example.  Establish a contact method that Employees should use to report any absences or unforeseen delays in getting to work.

Employer Expectations

Confirm what you will do to ensure the safety of Employees when working on site, and reiterate all commitments to Employees’ health, safety and well-being. Make it clear that risking personal safety to get to work through exceptionally severe and dangerous weather conditions is not encouraged. Many Employers choose to assign Managers the option of sending Employees home early, or to close the workplace during adverse weather conditions. This intention should be stated within the Policy.

Alternative Arrangements

Discuss alternative arrangements that can be made in the event that an Employee is unable to travel to work in their normal way during adverse weather conditions. Advise of any alternative travel options they could use, or any alternative sites that they could work from if they are more accessible. Allow Employees to work flexibly, or to take the option to work from home, if this is a viable option for both them and the business.

In The Event Of Closure

State what will happen in the event that it becomes necessary to close the workplace with regards to how Employees will be informed, and how their pay will be affected.


Weather is something that we cannot always accurately predict, and certainly cannot control.  Being as prepared as possible for every eventuality, backed up by a formal Adverse Weather Policy to which all Employees can refer, is the best way to keep everyone safe, committed to their work, and the business running, no matter what the winter chooses to throw at us.

If you’d like advice or support in creating or updating an Adverse Weather Policy, please do not hesitate to contact us.