During periods of adverse weather, Falkirk Council aims to continue to deliver services and keep offices open, where possible, to safely maintain and support the community and vulnerable individuals.
Employees have a responsibility to report for work. In the event of adverse weather, all employees are expected to make every effort to report for work, including attempting to travel by alternative means than those used in normal weather conditions.
Adverse weather can impact on working conditions, especially where employees are required to travel at work. In such circumstances, appropriate measures require to be implemented to manage any increased risk to employees.
It is also recognised that there may be occasions where employees are prevented from attending their workplace or prevented from returning home as a consequence of the weather conditions.
This policy is intended to assist managers in implementing a sensible and caring approach to individual employee circumstances whilst balancing this against the need to maintain the provision of services.
This Policy applies to all Falkirk Council employees.
Adverse weather: Definition
Adverse weather is defined as weather conditions which:
- have unusual consequences which affect working conditions
- prevent staff getting to work
- cause significant problems for staff getting to and from work
This can include snow, ice, fog, floods or high winds which render travel extremely hazardous. 'Extremely hazardous' is defined as conditions in which the Police and/or appropriate motoring organisations advise the public not to make unnecessary journeys or not to travel at all unless necessary.
The Meteorological Office co-ordinates and publishes a recognised Weather Alert System. These alerts are circulated to specific individuals within Falkirk Council. Alerts are then cascaded across the Council and placed on the website for general information. This information is also published on broadcast news and weather services. This must be maintained for the period of the weather warning.
Each Service must have a system in place to cascade relevant weather alerts across the Service. This must include early dissemination of the information to those managing and planning home/site visits or travel in such weather conditions.
To ensure that they are able to respond to changes in adverse weather, Service Managers must ensure that they regularly check their emails for updates to ensure the flow of communication to their employees. Managers must ensure that they have access to the appropriate IT equipment and team contact information to allow them to access emails and communicate with employees if required to work from home or an alternative workplace due to adverse weather.
Managers are expected to monitor and respond to different alert levels as follows:
Yellow warnings can be issued for a range of weather situations. Many are issued when it is likely that the weather will cause some low level impacts, including some disruption to travel in a few places. Managers are required to monitor the latest forecast and be aware that the weather may change leading to disruption of plans in the following hours/days.
There is an increased likelihood of impacts from severe weather, with the possibility of travel delays, road and rail closures, power cuts and the potential risk to life and property. Each Service must review working arrangements in light of deteriorating weather conditions. Alternative arrangements may require to be put in place for site / home visits to manage any increased risk to employees
Dangerous weather is expected. It is very likely that there will be a risk to life, with substantial disruption to travel, energy supplies and possibly widespread damage to property and infrastructure. In such circumstances, the Chief Executive (or Chief Executive’s substitute in their absence) will close Council buildings for the period of the red warning with essential services only being provided in line with the Council’s Business Continuity Plan. This will be communicated via the Council’s website and employees will be directed to consult the Council website, social media and Central FM for further updates.
Deployment of employees during adverse weather
Services have a responsibility to determine the priorities for delivery of the Service in line with the Business Continuity Plan in times of adverse weather. For example, non-emergency work may be placed on hold and resources allocated to assist with the clearing of roads and footpaths, or supporting and assisting vulnerable individuals within the community. Service Managers must be clear on what each team member’s role is in times of adverse weather. An assessment on where individuals should be deployed should be based on the needs of the Service, the skills profile of each team member and the requirements on that particular day.
Where there are increased absence levels in critical areas, employees may be asked whether they are willing to work additional hours with compensation agreed, as appropriate, in line with the Council’s conditions of service. Similarly, where additional employees are required to undertake standby duty above the normal standby rota requirements, then appropriate standby and call-out payments will be payable.
Given the increasing demands for some services during periods of adverse weather, employees reporting for work may be asked to help out with other services particularly affected by the weather to ensure the delivery of essential services. Staff deployed to such other duties will be paid at the rate for their own job. In the event of snow, this may include assistance with snow clearing on a voluntary basis and employees should come to work appropriately dressed for the weather conditions.
Each Service area should identify an Adverse Weather Co-ordinator – this will normally be the team member who is on the Incident Response Team. This individual will be the contact point to assist with the deployment of staff on days of adverse weather. Service priorities may change dependent on the duration of the adverse weather.
Services must ensure that Risk Assessments are in place to cover driving at work and that any change in weather alert status is identified in the control procedures.
Managers who are responsible for peripatetic workers or employees who are required to carry out site/ home visits/ travel shall ensure that there is a procedure to manage the weather alerts in the planning of such visits. Managers must ensure that necessary training is implemented to ensure a clear understanding of the process and risk assessment arrangements.
In terms of deployment, in assessing the risk to employees travelling during periods of extreme weather, where a decision is taken to withdraw visits or implement business continuity measures, all team members must be notified/ recalled to a safe location.
Managers shall ensure that employees are aware that if in the course of their visits/ travel they have concerns regarding deteriorating weather conditions they should contact their designated manager. In rapidly deteriorating conditions they should return to their office or a safe location and let their designated manager know their status.
Local conditions may not reflect the weather warning conditions therefore it is important to take account of known variables in weather e.g. high ground with potential for snow or areas that are known to have flooding issues. As these are variable conditions, Risk Assessments should be reviewed to reflect the conditions. The outcome of these assessments should be retained and be available to be viewed by employees. Relevant information should be passed on to all members of the team.
Children’s Services are expected to provide a service and keep schools/ nurseries open where possible. Where weather conditions deteriorate, Headteachers require to assess if the risks associated with keeping pupils in school are greater than they would be if pupils were sent home and the school closed. To assess this risk, it is important that Headteachers monitor local weather conditions with regard to road and pavement conditions or high winds. Advice should be taken, if possible, from the Team Manager and Property Team before taking any local decision to close a school. Each school should have a local school closure procedure, agreed in consultation with parents, to be implemented in such instances.
The Headteacher should notify the following as appropriate:
- Parents – by text via SEEMis
- Email decision to email@example.com who will notify the Council’s Communications Team and Contact Centre
- The Property team, who will arrange for the Council’s Senior Management Team and Elected Members to be notified
- Central FM
- Building, Catering and Cleaning Services
- Transport Planning Unit/ Bus and Taxi Operators
- Crossing Patrols and Pupil Transport Assistants
- Any support services, tradespersons, suppliers or other planned visitors who may be due to visit the school
The Director of Children’s Services can, in extreme circumstances, agree a blanket closure of all schools and nurseries where it is considered that there is a risk to pupils arising from adverse weather conditions. Unless a red warning is in place and the Chief Executive has issued confirmation of business continuity measures being implemented, it is expected that schools will remain open to staff and employees should report to work as normal to their own workplace or the nearest Children’s Services site.
Staff attendance during adverse weather
Preparing for adverse weather travel
Each individual is responsible for their own attendance at work. In adverse weather, all employees are expected to make every effort to report for work. This includes attempting to travel to work by other means or to make use of the Council’s mobile
and flexible working options where relevant to their role.
Where adverse weather is predicted, employees should make reasonable preparations including:
- Allowing for additional travel time
- Planning alternative routes
- Arranging to stay overnight with family or friends locally; and
- Car sharing if this is safe and reasonable – Employee can access the Tripshare website. This website allows people to register and see who else in Falkirk Council is travelling from the same area.
Employees should assess whether it is safe and reasonable for them to travel to their own workplace. It isn’t possible to specify what constitutes ‘unreasonable’ to travel as this will depend on circumstances. This may include where an employee is required to use a succession of public transport modes or where, if public transport is not available, the workplace is not within walking distance given the weather and road conditions.
If the nature of the employee’s work allows them to work from home and it is considered appropriate for them to undertake this work rather than assisting with the delivery of essential services, employees should ensure that they take sufficient and appropriate work home in case they are prevented from attending work.
Adverse Weather Policy FAQs
Unable to report for work
Where it is unsafe or unreasonable for an employee to travel to their normal workplace/an alternative work location or to homework, they must contact their line manager by telephone as early as possible on the day in question and on a daily basis if the weather conditions persist thereafter. They must advise their line manager of their non-attendance and the reasons preventing their travel. Employees should review their position as the day progresses and report for work if travel arrangements improve over the course of the working day.
Managers should satisfy themselves as to the legitimacy of the reasons for non- attendance. Such consideration could include;
- Making enquiries on the availability on public transport to/from the area and/or requesting information about road conditions from such sources as the Automobile Association/Royal Automobile Club
- Monitoring any announcements made by Police Scotland about the condition of roads and their suitability for travel purposes
- Whether employees who live in the same area have had success in attending their place of work
- Whether the employee has any special requirements which may impact on their ability to report for work and for which, reasonable adjustment is required
Where satisfied that an employee’s reasons for not attending their workplace are legitimate, the line manager should give consideration to:
- The nature of the work undertaken
- Whether it is appropriate for the employee to work from home if they don’t normally do so and if so, ensure that sufficient work can be allocated
- Whether it is possible for the employee to report to a Falkirk Council building closer to home and to undertake some meaningful work
- Whether alternative working patterns may be appropriate in the short term e.g. for the employee to work compressed hours over the course of the working week
Where none of the above applies, the line manager should discuss and agree the use of annual leave, flexi leave or unpaid leave with any employee unable to report for work. Alternatively, where work is available, employees can work additional hours to make up lost time.
If adverse weather occurs towards the end of an annual leave year, employees may be permitted to use annual leave from the following year’s entitlement and also excess flexi leave.
Where employees are able to home work, they must still contact their line manager by telephone as early as possible on any day that they are prevented from attending work.
Employees must make contact on a daily basis if the weather conditions persist.
Reporting to an alternative workplace
In some cases, it may be appropriate for the employee to report to an alternate Falkirk Council workplace. In doing so, the manager must ensure that the relevant accommodation is available and meaningful work can be undertaken.
If this is the most appropriate option for employees, they must remember to take their Falkirk Council ID card. This must be discussed and agreed with the line manager in advance.
Where weather deteriorates during the working day/shift
Where weather deteriorates over the course of the working day, Managers have discretion to send employees home where there is clear evidence that individuals will encounter significant difficulty in reaching their home at reasonable times
The discretion exercised by Managers in this context means that some employees may be allowed home earlier than those who are unlikely to encounter difficulties. All such situations should be managed with care taking into account the circumstances of the individuals concerned.
Only in exceptional circumstances, where the Chief Executive authorises a complete closure of Falkirk Council buildings, will all employees be permitted to leave their workplace before normal finishing times. This means that, unless so authorised, sufficient people should be requested to remain in post to provide a skeleton service during normal working hours.
In the event that a school is closed to pupils, teachers will be expected to remain at work or work from home, carrying out work normally undertaken during non-class contact time.
Where an employee is required by their line manager to remain at work during the occurrence of adverse weather and is, as a consequence, unable to return home, appropriate arrangements will be made, where necessary, for overnight accommodation. This must be approved the relevant Chief Officer. As an alternative, arrangements may be made to take the individual home. All necessary expenses incurred by the individual employee in such circumstances will be reimbursed at a later stage in line with the Council’s conditions of service relating to subsistence.
Caring for dependents
Where schools are closed at short notice due to adverse weather or there are other increased demands placed on employees with carer’s responsibilities for dependents, consideration should be given to carer’s leave in line with the Council’s Family Leave Policy. Carer’s leave is intended to deal with emergency and unforeseen situations and to allow time to make alternative arrangements. Managers are required to assess each case individually, on each day that adverse weather
continues, in line with the Family Leave Policy.
Carers should consider on-going weather forecasts and make advance arrangements where possible.
Where a red weather warning is in place, the Chief Executive (or the Chief Executive’s substitute in their absence) will authorise full closure of Council buildings and apply special leave provisions during the red weather warning period. Employees will be notified if this is the case. If this has not been communicated, it must be assumed that no special leave will be granted.
Where other weather warnings are in place, the Chief Executive may corporately approve that managers may grant special leave to any employee who has made a genuine effort to get to work but has been unable to do so due to weather conditions. In such circumstances, where weather conditions persist, this decision will be reviewed on a daily basis. Where considered appropriate, the Council may revert to requiring individuals to take annual leave, flexi leave or unpaid leave. This ensures fairness to employees who have made additional efforts to attend work in difficult conditions.
Failure to notify the relevant manager or supervisor of non- attendance within a reasonable period of time will prejudice an employee’s right to request that "special" leave be granted.
Even where special leave applies, all employees are still expected to make efforts to attend work and, where this is not possible, homeworking and working from alternate locations should be considered.
During periods of adverse weather conditions and only where special leave has been corporately approved, it may be appropriate that normal starting and finishing times for the employees are, where appropriate, waived. In such circumstances, line managers will require to approve the appropriate method of crediting employees who, because of the weather conditions, have been unable to complete their normal work period e.g. crediting their flexi for the time taken additional to their normal day’s journey to complete their journey to work (subject to the limit of their normal working day i.e. 7 or 7.4 hours). Where the Chief Executive authorises the early closure of Council buildings, employees should be credited for a normal finishing time e.g. credited until 5pm or normal finish time.
This policy is effective from November 2018.