Cars in snow

Planning for bad weather: absences and ‘no shows’

It’s wintertime and that means bad weather. Two-thirds of small businesses in the UK have been affected by bad weather in the past three years, according to The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) research. For businesses it can mean an increase in employees not showing up for work. It may be colds and flu or the effect of adverse weather on transport. What is certain is that absences can have a disproportionate effect on small businesses so it’s important you have a policy for ‘no shows’ and know how to deal with unplanned absences.

It’s estimated that 137.3 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2016. This is equivalent to 4.3 days per worker. As minor illnesses, coughs and colds were amongst the most common reason that workers kept away from work. While such illnesses are unavoidable and can strike any one of us, managers and supervisors need to plan ahead for occasional sudden absences during spells of bad weather. However the FSB research also revealed that 46% of the 1,199 small businesses (with 10 or less employees) questioned took no action to manage the severe weather risks.

Here are some tips on planning ahead for bad weather:

  • Be clear – managers should ensure that staff are aware of what they should do when they cannot show up for work on time. Include your sickness or lateness policy and procedures in their induction pack; it is also a good idea to make it accessible digitally either via email or on a company intranet. Employees are not automatically entitled to be paid if they do not turn up to work on time due to travel problems. However many employers will makes allowances and not deduct pay when genuine problems occur.
  • Be flexible – it can be counterproductive to come down hard every time workers are occasionally late or absent due to travel woes. So be flexible and discuss whether the employee could work from home if they are prevented from coming in due to travel disruptions. It’s your chance as a manager to help improve staff morale and keep up productivity.
  • Be consistent – it’s important you deal with all workers fairly, equally and in accordance with your firm’s policies. ACAS reminds employers that being consistent will maintain good relations and head off complaints about favouritism or victimisation which could land you in an employment tribunal.
  • Plan ahead for travel – when employer and employee become aware of a forthcoming travel problem e.g. transport strike, temporary road works, then they should plan ahead for that period. The manager could discuss with their employee having a different flexible working pattern during that period which might also involve working from home. Businesses in flood-risk areas can sign up to the Environment Agency for a free flooding-alert service.
  • Be aware of the real time picture – managers and supervisors will ultimately need to know who’s in and who’s not in order to meet the demands of the working day. They can consult HR staff or other managers but a more efficient way of finding out this information is having an automated time and attendance system which shows you real time clocking in data. You can log in from any location at any time to check that your workers are on track. In case of absences you’ll be able to make cover arrangements to fulfil the work that needs to be done that day.

uAttend is an automated cloud-based time and attendance system which can help you manage unplanned absences. The clocking-in function shows authorised users who’s in or out in real time. Data reports can be compiled about the extent of absences and lateness so managers can review where any escalation is required.

uAttend is part of the Chronologic workforce management portfolio. To find out more about our time and attendance software solutions call 01761 410015 or email