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Don’t let these winter HR issues snowball out of control...

Cold weather and winter festivities bring plenty of HR challenges with them. Common HR issues during the winter months include failure to get into work, increased sickness and dealing with school closures.


In this article we explore some of the problems and winter pressures that GP Practices find themselves facing over the festive season.


Adverse Weather 

It would not be fair to discipline an employee who genuinely cannot get to work due to weather-related access problems; however you do not have to pay employees for this time.

Employers may consider alternatives to unpaid leave, such as allowing annual leave, home working or the time to be made up later.

Whatever approach is taken, it's worth ensuring that it is applied fairly and consistently and does not discriminate, intentionally or indirectly, against any protected groups.

Weather is something that can often be planned for, which could be factored into contingency planning. In the case of severe snow, could some team members who live within walking distance swap or change shifts with those who live further away and cannot get in?


Increased Sickness

Predictably, sickness increases over the winter months. This has the dual effect of creating additional pressure on GP Practices as demand for appointments increases, and increased sickness absence from staff.

Staying on top of your sickness absence procedures, holding prompt and thorough return to work interviews and ensuring you have clear trigger points written into your sickness policy can reduce this burden. 

Instances of stress and depression can also increase over the winter months, so it is important that any potential issues are spotted and acted upon. This may range from simply discussing whether an employee has an issue and checking if they are okay, up to liaising with Occupational Health or signposting employees to mental health support groups where necessary. 

Does your practice have a Stress Policy that can be utilised to support employees where necessary? Cultivating an inclusive, caring environment and culture is the most effective way to support your staff.


School Closures

Parents and carers have the right to time off in an emergency to care for their dependants and a school closure would likely count as such a situation.

Although the time off would be unpaid, it is worth checking whether you have previously set a precedent of paying for such leave or having contractual or procedural allowances in place for such circumstances.


For specific queries regarding any of the HR issues covered in this article FPM Members can contact HRhelp@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk where you question will be treated in confidence and will normally be answered (by email) within 2 working days of submission.

Alternatively, FPM Members can access related policies and protocols, including an adverse weather policy, Christmas Party Policy and a range of Sickness Absence policies in the policies and protocols library.

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