In the UK, we’re always talking about the weather, and sometimes it’s for good reason. Lighter nights and sunnier days got us thinking that spring was on its way, then suddenly, Siberia decided we needed some snow.
If you’re indoors watching it out of the window, you’ll likely think it looks pretty and wonder what all the fuss is about, but if you run a business, severe weather can pose a big problem. You might experience power cuts, employees not being able to get into work, or suppliers being unable to deliver goods, and your premises might even be damaged by high winds or flood waters.
According to the Federation of Small Businesses, two thirds of small businesses in the UK were affected by severe weather over the last three years, and the average cost to businesses was £7,000.
Few businesses have a severe weather contingency plan, but you should have one. Here’s what you need to do:
Make a plan of action
You need a plan that covers what you will do in the event of supply chain disruption, if employees are unable to get into work, if there’s damage to your premises, and how you will keep communications with employees, customers, and suppliers open to let them know what’s going on.
Severe weather plan: essential considerations
Decide who’s in charge: Will you as a business owner make the decisions or will you bring together a team of people to decide?
Communicate with employees and customers: Once you’ve made a decision to restrict business hours or close your premises, let as many people know as possible via email, social media, your website, and the company voicemail.
Make a staffing plan: Know which staff will most likely be able to get into work (for example, people who live the closest) and discuss with them that you may need to ask them to come in at short notice.
Know employee rights: There is no legal right to time off for employees due to severe weather and travel disruption, though employees who have dependent children are allowed time off if nurseries or schools are closed and there are no other childcare options available. Your options include allowing staff to take annual leave or unpaid leave, allowing them to work from home, or letting them make the time up at a later date. This is at your discretion, and anything you allow will depend on the business need.
Consider employee health and safety: Do think about the risks of asking employees to travel when the authorities have advised them not to.
What else can you do?
Keep up to date with the weather: The better informed you are, the better you are able to plan. The Environment Agency offers a free flood alert service which is available via phone, email, or text.
Get insured: Maker sure you have all the insurance you need, especially against flooding. If your business finds it hard to get insurance, because they are located in a high-risk flood area for example, specialist brokers can help you to find affordable insurance to meet your needs.