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Legal Updates

The extremes of temperature

22 January 2013 #Employment


Chris Stops, one of Forbury People`s HR Consultants, has written this blog for us:

Given the cold snap we are currently experiencing, and the current run of seemingly unreliable and changeable weather I thought extremes of temperature would be a sensible topic to start the year on.

Firstly, and most importantly it is worth realising there are very few, if any absolute health and safety laws or regulations which cover any of these matters, despite preconceptions to the contrary. In certain instances there are guidelines and codes of practice which may be applicable and these can be accessed from http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/faq.

However,  most of the solutions to issues created by weather- in all its forms; extremes of temperature, wind, rain, snow and ice - are common sense and relate to the specific issues your business faces. They are also worth considering from first principles:

  • Most importantly how do envisage these problems will impact upon your clients and customers? Will it affect their desire and need to use your services?  If the answer is yes, and it will impact adversely on your cash flow, this is where your efforts should be concentrated. However this is not always the case, for example certain construction industry contracts provide for adverse weather conditions and allow for employees to be stood down for this reason.
  • Will it impact upon your employees ability and desire to do their job to the required quality (of which their health and safety is likely to be a part), and hence provide customers with your product or service? Again, if this is the case this is where your efforts should be concentrated.

To return to the first question: unless clients can literally access your business, this is where your principal problem lies. It also means a high street retailer with a front door blocked by ice is no different from an internet one with a defective internet connection.  The logic they are going to use to solve these problems - both in the short and long term - therefore, will be similar, although their solutions are likely to be completely different. 

As far as the second question is concerned, presumably the aim is for weather to not disrupt at all the quality of service your business provides. A question you may wish to ask yourself is will the thermal comfort of my employees impact upon their desire and motivation to do their job?

  • Is the inclement weather an impediment to getting to work or at work? The two answers will result in different solutions.
  • If it is an impediment to getting to work, can it be done elsewhere- in the short term while the bad weather lasts?
  • Heaters and air conditioners can be acquired at quite short notice relatively cheaply these days when necessary.
  • Are well chosen gloves and coats all that are necessary- ones which do not impact upon dexterity or freedom of movement? 
  • Is it only a case of offering more hot drinks and rest breaks - away from the extremes of the weather? This is likely to require additional job planning and scheduling if disruption is to be minimised.

Remember:

  •  It is always worth discussing your proposed solutions with employees who will be affected by them, prior to implementing them. They may well have some solutions of their own worth considering, and they are likely to be happier with their solution than having yours imposed upon them.  A quiet diplomatic word at the earliest opportunity may also make it possible for you to convince them that your solution was in fact theirs!
  • In the event you end forcing your solution upon employees  their reaction - be it deliberate or not -  can ultimately be reflected in:
    • Their enthusiasm for the job and their work quality or work speed.
    • They may react when it is `convenient` to them via increased absence, or resignation, both of which will be disruptive and expensive for you - suggesting tact, diplomacy and discussion are always worth considering  in the first instance.

Finally, once the bad weather has passed it is worth asking yourself:

  • What have I learnt from this?
  • How can this experience make me better prepared to manage bad weather in the future?

 

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at employmentunit@clarkslegal.com by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
Disclaimer
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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