Winter Weather is Top Cause of Disruption to UK Businesses

A huge 77% of organisations admit to having been affected by bad weather, in particular heavy snow, in the last 12 months, according to research from the Chartered Management Institute in March this year.


In their report, it was revealed that the most common snow-related disruptions were travel and childcare issues which stopped staff from getting to work.

As a result, some three in five organisations suffered financially, with managers estimating the average cost to be in excess of £52,000, and some going as high as over £1 million.

Weathering the storm examines how prepared businesses are for disruption and the steps they are taking to mitigate those risks. It shows that extreme weather is increasingly hampering organisations: 10 years ago it interfered with just 15% of businesses over a year, rising to 29% five years ago and 49% last year.

It is a matter of concern that many businesses still underestimate the risk that extreme weather conditions can pose. Despite being the top cause of business disruption for three years running, the weather barely makes the top 10 when managers are asked to predict which threats are most likely to disrupt them in the future.

However, it is apparent that business continuity arrangements help reduce snow disruption; 90% of organisations with plans were ready for this year’s snowfall, compared with 68% of those without.

When faced with the threat of adverse weather conditions, employers are best advised to be prepared for the worst. Contingency plans for employees, such as home or flexible working, time off in lieu, taking of holidays and making up any time lost, will all minimise the disruption to the business and reduce risk to the employee.

It is advisable for employers to have a formal policy in the event that bad weather strikes and employees cannot get into work. Any policy should cover the importance of employees advising their line manager at the earliest opportunity of delays caused by severe weather or disruptions to public transport and childcare. In the same policy, employees should be advised about how lost time will be handled. For example, employees who work fixed hours should be advised that they are expected to make up the time and over what period, such as in the next month or payroll period.

In general terms, driving to and from work is not part of an employer’s duty of care under health and safety legislation. How employees get to work is a matter for them, but it is a matter which can affect employers considerably. They need to consider the effects of bad weather on their employee’s journeys to and from work. They need to liaise with their HR departments or advisors to establish guidelines which minimise those risks. Guidelines may include allowing employees to work from home during bad winter weather, allowing employees to leave for home early in light of bad weather forecasts, and issuing guidelines for safe driving techniques in snow and ice.

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