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16th OCTOBER, 2017

Employer advice during storm Ophelia

Employers have particular obligations when it comes to ensuring the safety of their employees during adverse weather conditions.
With storm Ophelia arriving on our shores, you, as an employer have particular obligations to the health & welfare of your staff.
Employer obligations under the law
Under Irish legislation, employers have a duty to ensure their employees' safety, health and welfare at work as far as is reasonably possible. An employer is required, among other things, to:

  • Provide and maintain a safe workplace which uses safe plant and equipment
  • Provide instruction and training to employees on health and safety
  • Provide protective clothing and equipment to employees
  • Appointing a competent person as the organisation's Safety Officer
Do you have a safety statement?
Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 every employer must prepare a safety statement. The statement should contain the details of people in the workforce who are responsible for safety issues. Employees should be given access to this statement and employers should review it on a regular basis.
Does this form part of your company handbook?
As part of the company handbook you issue to staff, a company policy on absence due to adverse weather should be included in order to address the situation where employees are unable to attend work due to weather-related circumstances outside of their control.
Communication to employees
Where a workplace is no longer accessible, employers need to consider the method of communicating this to employees. At all times, safety considerations must be of uptmost importance.
What about working from home?
Where an employee has the capacity to carry out their work from home for the duration of the disruption, this should be agreed with his or her line manager. This will not be feasible for a number of roles where the employee's presence is required. This may also put pressure on the organisation's IT infrastructure as demand increases.
Annual leave during adverse weather
  • Where an employee cannot attend and cannot carry out his or her normal duties, the options of annual leave or unpaid time off could be presented.
  • Where employees arrive late or leave early, whilst some flexibility may be provided, employers might consider paid leave where the employees will work up the time missed at a later date, preferably within one month of the occurrence. This is usually more feasible in organisations that already operate a flexi-time system. Alternatively, the option of unpaid leave or annual leave (broken into hours) may be considered
  • In the event that the disruption to public transport leads to a reduction in work or no work available for employees, a temporary lay-off situation may arise. Employers who have reserved the right to place employees on lay-off or short-time working in their contracts of employment may utilise this clause. Otherwise, agreement should be sought from the employees
Source: IBEC
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