Severe Weather - Advice to members

18 Jan 2019

As winter is approaching it is important that people know what to do in case of bad weather.  

Early in 2018 we had the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, these created severe weather conditions and mass disruption across the UK. The way this was dealt with across the department was varied, some offices were closed in response to the warnings whilst others were left open, with no action being taken until the last possible moment.  A number of members at the time reported that they had felt unsafe being in work due to the extreme weather conditions and the treacherous journeys they had to make to and from the office. Rather than exercise the required duty of care, the employer had refused to allow members to go home in some instances.  This should not be the case as staff safety is paramount.   We hope that by reissuing this guidance early, members will know what to do and their will be plenty of time to escalate if required.

Red Warnings

If a red warning gets issued it means the weather is so bad that there is a potential for loss of life. The Met Office say, you should take action immediately to keep yourself and others safe from the impact of the weather. Widespread damage, travel and power disruption and risk to life are likely. You must avoid dangerous areas and follow the advice of the emergency services and local authorities.

Last time Gov.uk said:  If your area had a red warning to follow this advice.

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.

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 Warning

An Amber warning means you need to be prepared to change your plans and protect yourself, your family and community from the impacts of the severe weather based on the forecast from the Met Office. Take notice of Amber and Yellow warnings as they are there for your safety and you should take the advice of the experts.

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 for 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.

Winter Plan

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

If you have any problems contact your local PCS rep.

Be Safe, Stay Safe

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