Businesses: Do your employees really need to come in today?

Working remotely and flexibly can offer solution, lobby group advises

The Central Bank of Ireland is one of a number of state institutions that were forced to close on Wednesday however all staff are working from home. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The Central Bank of Ireland is one of a number of state institutions that were forced to close on Wednesday however all staff are working from home. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Business lobby groups reiterated warnings on Wednesday to businesses to have a plan to deal with adverse weather conditions.

A number of groups including Dublin Chamber and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprise group (Isme) advised their members to plan well for disruption.

Dublin Chamber called on employers to minimise the need for employees to travel on Wednesday. “The weather is likely to change during the course of the day, with more snow forecast, meaning that journeys which are possible now may not be possible later,” Dublin Chamber’s head of public affairs Graeme McQueen said.

“Businesses may wish to consider whether is is possible for some workers to work from home or remotely, if required. In the event of travel disruption, firms may also think about more flexible working hours to give staff adequate time to get to and from work,” he added.

Neil McDonnell, the chief executive of Isme was less inclined to suggest a blanket policy for all businesses but recommended that a good communications policy be put in place to deal with the weather.

“We tell our members, across all sectors and all regions, have a business plan, so you look at what you do, you react to the weather in accordance with what your business physically does,” Me McDonnell said.

“A lot of workforces are entirely dependent on public transport so your business plan has to encompass that.”

Regional approach

Mr McDonnell praised the regional approach to school closures, acknowledging that closures could carry significant personal cost to staff and business today.

“There is simply no point getting hysterical with the Government that they can direct all things from Leinster House, that’s not how it works. It’s up to the schools,” he said.

Of concern to many employees will be whether or not they will get paid if they don’t make it into work. While the law states that employers are under no obligation to pay employees who can’t physically get to work, many employers will have a policy in place to cover such costs in the event of inclement weather. But again, there is no legal requirement to do so.

Isme advises that employers should provide for “flexibility” in this respect, especially in relation to those workers who have some distance to travel, while employers should also be vigilant of the need to allow staff leave work early to avoid worsening weather.

The Director of Employer Relations with business group IBEC, Maeve McElwee called on employers to allow a degree of flexibility because of the extreme weather conditions.

However, she maintained that in some cases this would require staff to make up the time at another stage.

Speaking to The Irish Times, she noted “It’s around looking to see who can you facilitate working from home in the event the circumstances you can’t facilitate them making it into the office.

“We’ve said, [EMPLOYERS]really need to make contingency plans that consider all those types of circumstances. If people are coming in or making longer journeys you need to monitor very closely the weather forecast and transport services to make sure you’re following what’s happening.”

IBEC had worked closely with its members and had advised them to put contingency plans in place.