Guidance for employers on workplace issues over the winter months

As an employer, it pays to be fully prepared for whatever weather this winter may throw at you – whether its wind, rain, storms or snow and ice. Winter in the UK often brings its own set of workplace problems.

Severe weather conditions can result in staff absence due to travel disruption and seasonal commemorations often lead to a ‘mad rush’ of employees attempting to book in annual leave all at once.

At Employment Law Services (ELS) our advice is: Don’t get caught in the cold – ensure you have logical workplace polices on staff issues, such as travelling to work and taking holiday requests; communicate them to all employees now!

Adverse weather conditions

What issues should you keep in mind?

– You are not legally obliged to pay staff if they cannot get into work because of weather conditions

– Have a policy stating this – this will ensure employees are aware of the businesses expectations on them getting into work

– Try to be flexible where possible – can you come to a short-term arrangement that the employee can work from home temporarily until the weather/travel improves? Or, can you temporarily modify working hours to reduce disruptions?   


With winter weather, comes the cold and flu- this is likely to see an increase in the number of employees calling in sick to work.

– There should be provisions within the workplace absence policy alerting employees of when they will be expected to contact work when calling in sick. In addition, employers should routinely hold back to work interviews when an employee returns from being off sick.

– Should the illness last more than 7 days, employees should fill in a self-certificate detailing their short-term illness or alternatively, they should seek a statement of fitness for work from their GP.

Holiday entitlements

Around the festive period employers may find that they receive a burst of annual leave requests.

– When public holidays during the Christmas and New Year period fall on Saturdays and Sundays, alternative weekdays will be considered as public holidays.

– There is no legal requirement to paid leave for public holidays.

*Most part and full-time workers have the legal entitlement of 5.6 weeks paid holiday. Employers may agree to further annual leave as part of an individual’s contract.

– Employers can set periods around when employees will be expected to use annual leave, such as the business closing for Christmas.

Health in the workplace

Winter months often provoke mental health conditions such as stress and depression. Identifying this is a key business skill.

– It is unusual for an employee to freely open up to employers about a mental health condition. Thus, approaching an employee who you believe may be suffering from a mental health issue can be difficult. In this instance you should try and catch the employee privately and informally and ask how they are doing.

– Ensure your line managers are aware of how to react to signs of stress in the workplace. As an employer you may find that management staff require the correct training to assist them with handling difficult conversations and raise awareness of health issues.

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) help?

If you require employment law advice on any of the issues raised in this article, or any other employment issue give us a call today on 0370 218 5662.  You can also find out more about our fixed fee HR packages here and fixed fee employment law packages here, or get in touch.

Please note, the information in this article is for guidance purposes only and it is therefore advised that employers seek legal advice before embarking on any enforcement action.