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Is your practice ready for the bad weather?

The UK has been hit by a nasty bout of winter weather, with snow coming down in many areas and disrupting local transport. This has caused a few problems in several areas of the country, all of which have been caused by the same thing: a lack of preparation. Businesses, including dental practices, should be as ready as possible for the bad weather.

This should involve creating a bad-weather policy, according to Liz Symon, employment law adviser for the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS). Ms Symon recently released a statement advising all practices to get ready for the winter weather by ensuring they are prepared for potentially going without certain members of staff.

“A drop in temperatures can bring about some hostilities in the workplace if some employees fail to show due to wintry weather,” she said. “It is important for the practice to be flexible. How such matters are handled can often affect morale and productivity so it is advisable to introduce a bad weather policy that should be clearly communicated to all employees and applied consistently.”

This policy will determine a number of things, but is primarily about paying staff. If somebody legitimately can’t make it into the office because of heavy snow, should they lose a day’s pay? Or will you treat it like sick leave, as it is not their fault?

There are plenty of options here, which should work well in your practice if you are consistent. For example, you could give staff members the option of giving up a day’s holiday in order to remain at home during the snow. If you utilise shift work, employees can make up the time at a later date.

You should also consider how much time you will allow employees to take off. If the weather improves but people still claim they can’t come in, you can insist that they use up their holiday or go without pay once they have been off for too long. However, it is best not to pressure people into coming into work in some conditions.
“The practice also needs to consider health and safety obligations, as each practice has a duty of care to its employees,” Ms Symon said. “If there is a Met Office warning advising only essential travel, it is probably not reasonable to be encouraging employees to try and come to work.”

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