Business Continuity

Snow Days

01 Mar
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Bad weather, Blog, Business Continuity, Contract of employment, employee rights, Health and Safety, pay, RIsk, Schools, snow, Video, Vlog   |  No Comments

 

How to manage staff when the English weather turns is always a topic for discussion among employers. In this video (one from our #AskDOHR series) we give employers different elements which they need to consider when making decisions about their business and whether or not to pay staff who fail to come to work due to bad weather, school closures or transport shut down.

The way in which you treat snow days will very much depend on your business. Certainly if you’re providing a service such as fire brigade, police, hospitals, district nurse, GP, or anything that’s critical,  you will have to have a business continuity plan for ‘snow days’.

However, there are lots of work environments such as offices, gardens, building sites, leisure centres, delivery drivers and factories  and as such, circumstances are going to be different for each one and for each type of business.

There are lots of elements you need to take into consideration when deciding whether or not to stay open:

  • Health & Safety – is the work environment safe – do you have heating and running water?
  • Health & Safety – can people reach work safely? If not, can you do anything to improve access such as gritting or sweeping paths?
  • Transport and Infrastructure – are buses and trains running? Not just to get people to work, but to get them home again as well.
  • Duration – How long is the bad weather due to last and can you put different plans in for different days? Perhaps the business could shut down for a day, but perhaps not for 2?
  • School Closures – It’s also very difficult to force people to come to work if they’ve got no childcare. While some children are old enough to be left at home, others will not be. Friends and family may all have their own snow issues and not be able to help out on a ‘snow day’ as they might otherwise be able to do.

 

There is no right and wrong way about how you deal with this. However, the first thing to do is to look at your contracts of employment. What options are available to you?

  1. pay them regardless of whether they make it into work
  2. unpaid leave for anyone unable to come to work
  3. allow them to use holiday (if they have any left) to be paid for their time off
  4. allow people to work from home (where business appropriate for them to do so)
  5. put people up in a hotel to enable them to reach work easily – again this will depend on their personal circumstances

Be sensible. Think about the value of your relationship with your staff. Think about the expectations of your clients. It’s a business decision and it doesn’t just come down to money. It also comes down to good will and relationships not only with your staff, but with your clients, suppliers and perhaps the community at large.

People are going to understand when everything else around you comes to a grinding halt. We’re on red and amber alerts across the country. Everybody is going to be aware of that. It’s about making an effort, it’s about doing the right thing. It’s about staff showing willing, offering to work at home, offering to come in. Would you allow them to bring a child into the workplace? Would that be appropriate if the school is closed but they can still get to work? It’s about getting a balance, it’s about give and take and it’s about relationships.

Look after your staff, they’ll be more motivated to support you. But there are times where you need your staff to turn up to work and failure to do so could cause massive implications for your clients or the community.

The decision ultimately is yours, you are the business owner, the buck does stop with you, but do what feels right and don’t put yourself in breach of your own contracts, policies and procedures.

Feeling The Heat

17 Jul
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Absence, Blog, Business Continuity, employee rights, employent law, Health and Safety   |  1 Comments

With temperatures soaring and no sign of an end to these wonderful hot days of summer, employees and employers are both feeling the strain. For absolute clarification …… there is no legal maximum working temperature and to this point, a group of MPs now want to introduce a maximum working temperature of 30 degrees (lowered to 27 degrees for strenuous jobs). 

So how practical is such a proposal and what would its impact be on businesses?

There are some employees who are constantly working in high temperatures regardless of the weather outside. Chefs, metal workers and miners all work in hot environments and although there are health and safety precautions in place, the work still needs to be done.

So what about an office worker or a retailer assistant, could they be sent home when it reaches 30 degrees? What would happen to businesses? With a law that sent people home when the temperature rose, businesses would not be able to operate and would face closure. Is that practical for ice cream shops, beach side cafes and outdoor entertainment facilities such as theme parks and zoos who would all do there best business on hot sunny days? It certainly isn’t practical to have a law for some businesses and not for others perhaps based on location or products.

Employees in hot countries such as Spain and Italy work in the heat on a regular basis and although concepts such as siestas and long lazy lunches are a familiar tradition, these are increasingly being phased out in multinational companies where they need to work with the rest of the world.

Air-Conditioning as standard also makes the heat more bearable in some countries, but there are many workers who would not be able to benefit from such facilities and they would be expensive to install and run for small companies in the UK.

What can employers do to reduce the impact of the heat?

There are several cost effect steps employers can take to tackle short term heat problems (and being the UK, this will be short term):

  • Where possible, relax the dress code. Clearly communicate what is acceptable and what is not.
  • Ensure that blinds are drawn to keep out the sun as much as possible (also make sure there is no glare on monitors)
  • Once the sun has moved to another side of the building, open windows and keep interior office doors open to help the flow of air around the building
  • Ensure there is cold water available for staff, either in a fridge or in a water cooler if the tap water is not cold enough. Staff should also be encouraged to bring in their own supplies.
  • Encourage regular breaks and perhaps increase the number of breaks or the length of breaks
  • Enable staff to move around  a little more if they are usually sat in one place
  • Consider earlier starts or later evenings with longer breaks so that people aren’t travelling in the rush hour and working in the heat of mid day (how very Mediterranean)
  • Purchase some fans to increase air flow

Employees must take practical steps to ensure their safety.

As with all things health and safety, employees do have a duty to look after themselves at work and discuss any concerns with managers in a practical way. Not turning up for work due to the weather or its effects (dehydration, lack of sleep, too much sun) is not acceptable, and an organisation has the right to discipline staff it believes have not taken reasonable steps to be at work. Staff must:

 

  • Ensure that they take on sufficient water during the day
  • Dress appropriately for business and the temperature
  • Pre-book any time off during the summer, phoning in on the day is not acceptable
  • Ensure that any food they eat at BBQs is properly cooked!!!
  • Ensure that alcohol consumed out of work does not impact time at work in any way. As well as alcohol consumption increasing in the summer, the heat intensifies the impact it has on people.

Business Continuity – Plan for the Unplanned

02 Feb
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Business Continuity, Employees, HR Consultancy, HR Policy, Human Resources   |  4 Comments

Business continuity, disaster recovery, whatever you call it, it has to happen. 2011 saw many disruptions to businesses both here in the UK and abroad. How prepared were the businesses, how did they recover and could you do the same?

Do you take the view that it will never happen to us and then bury your head in the sand, or keep your fingers crossed that it never does? Or do you sit around the table with your manager(s) and plan for all eventualities. There is no point always being an optimist if it puts your business at risk. You need to develop a list of possible scenarios, precautions and solutions to ensure no matter what the weather, terrorists or the Olympics throw at you, you know your responses, have the policies and procedures you need and the contact numbers of your key staff, IT support company and other key emergency response people.

Several years ago, I had first had experience of disaster recovery and the need for preparation. I worked for a company based in Hemel Hempstead when there was a massive explosion at Buncefield. Fortunately the explosion was in the early hours of the morning and there were minimal numbers of people on site. The building was absolutely out of action. The glass atrium collapsed and windows all over the building were shattered. Many other businesses were affected with sprinkler systems causing more damage than the actual explosion in several cases.

The priority was business as usual. With another local facility, staff who could worked from home or the London office on laptops, call centre staff from Hemel Hempstead were moved to St Albans and IT had back up systems running in less than 24 hours.

It is the people, information and customers which are valuable, not buildings and furniture. Ensure that your people have the ability to work from anywhere as the needs of your business dictate. You can’t avoid snow, floods or incidents, but you can plan for the worse and give yourself a competitive advantage if you can get back up quicker and better than others.

Your people are the key to your business continuity planning.

Do you have a plan for the unplanned?

Have you had an incident where Business Continuity Planning saved the day?

Share your thoughts and experiences.

Strike Day – Business Continuity

28 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Blog, Business Continuity, Holidays, Policies and Procedures, strikes   |  No Comments

As business owners we should all have a business continuity plan, but talking to my small business clients, I wonder how many of us do?

What happens if we are ill? What happens to our business when we go away? What happens if our Internet access goes down? What happens if our staff can’t get to work?

Loosing a day’s work as a result of the strike is a real problem for many businesses, especially as it is still unclear how we will be affected. Will the trains be running, will the airports be open, will staff have Childcare if their child’s school closes? Will there be gridlock on the roads? The disruptions are endless and not something our generation have really had to deal with. I certainly remember the teachers strikes of the mid 80’s and the impact that had on my schooling, but I didn’t have the realities of running a business to contend with.

As many of my readers know I have one employee, she can work from home, but can she work with a six year old running around? Should she work from the office and bring him in? According to David Cameron, it would appear so. But what if we worked in a shop, or a factory? Would it be appropriate or safe for her to being her child to work?

If she takes the day off, should it be paid or unpaid? Could she perhaps use her holiday time? Well she could if she had time left, but as we are nearly at the end of the year, most employees should have used up their annual leave or have some booked off for the Christmas period. So what can an employer do? Technically if an employee has no leave left to use, you could either give them the extra day, or insist they take it unpaid. If you offer an annual leave scheme above statutory, i.e. provide more than 28 days, you could
‘borrow’ a day from next year. Be aware you can’t use this option if you only provide the statutory minimum as the law requires employees to have their full statutory entitlement in a year.

So, what should you do?

  • Think about how your business will be affected
  • Think about the culture of your business and the message you want to give out.
  • Discuss the options with your staff
  • Make a decision and communicate it to everyone, so there are no surprises

If in doubt, seek advise, but make sure you stay legal and safe.

Share your thoughts and let us know how your business will continue during the strike on Wednesday. If you are reading this post after the strike, do let us know how you got on and the issues you encountered.

BNI – 60 Seconds – 21st December

21 Dec
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Bad weather, Business Continuity, HR Consultancy, HR Support   |  No Comments

After last weeks 60 seconds, I thought I would spare you the agony of another song, but I did want to pick up on the message from last week which was about planning for bad weather, being flexible with your workforce and ensuring you have documented HR policies so that there is consistency and clarity around business continuity in bad weather.

Life must go on. House sales will still complete, people still need to move, weddings will continue and the UK workforce must be prepared to enable businesses to continue throughout the winter months. Modern technology enables many employees to work from home.

Make business continuity and employee management a key part of your HR strategy, fail to plan and you plan to fail.

This week I am again looking for a referral to Accountants Jigsol in Trafalgar House in Mill Hill.

I am Donna Obstfeld, The Company is DOHR and we do HR, making the workplace a better place to be.

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