The Beast from the East and Storm Emma have created severe weather conditions and mass disruption across the UK. The way this has been dealt with across the department has varied, some offices being closed in response to the warnings whilst others have been left open, with no action being taken until the last possible moment. A number of members have reported that they have felt unsafe being in work due to the extreme weather conditions and the treacherous journeys they have to make to and from the office. Rather than exercise the required duty of care, the employer has refused to allow members to go home in some instances. This should not be the case as staff safety is paramount.
Large parts of the country have been given red weather warning status. This means the weather is so bad that there is a potential for loss of life. The Met Office say you should take action now to keep yourself and others safe from the impact of the weather. Widespread damage, travel and power disruption and risk to life is likely. You must avoid dangerous areas and follow the advice of the emergency services and local authorities.
An employer has a responsibility to allow staff to go home before this status hits and to further allow them to stay at home until the danger is over.
Even after the red warning is lifted there are likely to be further problems as large parts of the country are expected to have amber warnings which mean there is still an increased likelihood of bad weather which could potentially cause travel delays, road and rail closures, interruption to power and the potential risk to life and property.
Amber means you need to be prepared to change your plans and protect you, your family and community from the impacts of the severe weather based on the forecast from the Met Office.
Severe weather is one of the categories covered under the major disruptions to travel policy. The main priority is staff safety. Is it safe to get to work and is it safe to stay in work? The policy says that people will be treated fairly and consistently. Staff should make every effort to get to work providing they don’t place themselves at risk.
Duty of Care
The Department has a duty of care to its employees and cannot expect them to risk their personal safety. If it is agreed that the employee may leave early, a flexi credit should be awarded to take the employee up to their usual working day. Where the employee cannot get to work and alternative working arrangements are not possible, the manager should consider the awarding of flexi credits.
The policy does not cover the disruption of caring arrangements. This is covered under the special leave policy.
Each office should have a winter plan. This should have been discussed with all staff prior to the winter so that everybody knows what to do and who to contact in the event of extreme weather. There should also be a business continuity plan in place that all staff are aware of; this should be reviewed every year and following every situation such as this. The plan should include measures such as a call tree where managers and staff ensure they have numbers to contact.
During this period of severe disruption, if staff need advice they should ring the DWP emergency number - 0800 783 6617
Currently the message on gov.uk is:
Staff who live or work in locations currently covered by a red weather warning should not attend their place of work until advised to do so by their line manager or site contact.
If you have any problems contact your local PCS rep.
Be Safe, Stay Safe