Winter is Coming: Employers Winter 2022

We have been warned of a bleak winter ahead and tensions are rising in the UK about the possibility of national power cuts across the nation. The National Grid have publicly warned that owing to the Ukraine conflict power cuts could happen.

The government has not yet taken the position to officially address the issue for UK businesses leaving employers very much out in the cold when it comes to the potential effect power outages may have upon workforces.

The ramifications of power outages are relatively unknown as it has been decades since the UK faced such a scenario. However, the impact on mental health and well-being along with productivity are speculated to be high.

The practical effects are going to be obvious, heating systems will not be operational, kitchen facilities for staff will be out of action along with lighting, computers, and office equipment. For many, life at the office for the outage period will come to a grinding halt.

Whether businesses in the UK will receive any forewarning of outages or the duration is unknown so preparation for such is limited.

From an employment perspective if your staff are unable to carry out duties most employers are likely to opt to send staff home particularly if the office is cold from a lack of heating.  Another consideration is health and safety, without adequate lighting, slips and trips could be a factor particularly as the days get darker the closer we get to winter.

What should employers consider?

In the absence of specific contractual clauses allowing for short time working employers would be expected to continue to pay workers as normal. Placing the employee at a detriment if they are able and willing to work would be a breach of contract in the absence of contractual powers to place them on short time working.

Employers should think ahead of time about coping strategies to overcome the challenges that may lie ahead. Including:

  1. Flexible working and allowing staff to work from home in the event of a power outage.
  1. Changes in working hours to provide both employer and employee flexibility to complete their working hours.
  1. Think about the loss of internet access and how this will impact the operational side of the business.  
  1. Also, employers would be wise to think about whether back ups and data storage would be affected.

It is very important to recognise the importance of working together as a collective to overcome challenges of this nature and encouraging a culture of the same would be a very wise first step.

Business continuity is of paramount consideration for businesses to survive a predicted recession and power outages. Employers should also consider the impact power outages would have on parents with children at school and nurseries. Employees would likely need to collect children at short notice so looking at wider ramifications as part of the assessment is a must.

We would recommend any employer to consider the effects and put a business continuity plan in place in the event of such disruption. We would also advise reviewing any contractual clauses that deal with events that could disrupt business continuity and look at whether the contractual arrangements provide the necessary coverage.

If you would like any advice specific to your business or industry please get in touch.

Photo by Paolo Margari on Unsplash

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

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