It has been announced by the Government that there could be energy blackouts or energy rationing put in place during the winter. Though it is reported to be unlikely, it has not been ruled out. Therefore, businesses should consider possible impacts and make contingency plans should the blackouts or rationing occur. Within the workplace, a blackout might mean access to the building, use of lifts, heating, light, security, computer systems and phone lines is reduced.

If it your business is unable to operate without power, it is advised that you review your employees’ contracts to identify whether there is a short time working clause. If there is, and your business cannot continue, you would be able to send your employees home without pay, as long as the correct notice is given, and this should be detailed in the clause. There may also be a provision for guaranteed pay during short-term layoffs.

Alternatively, you could provide these other options:
· Offer your employees the opportunity to make up working time once power has been restored.
· Make a temporary change to working hours with your employees.
· Allow your employees to take annual leave to avoid a loss of pay and reduce the financial impact on them.

If you do not have the short-term layoff clause in your contracts, the options available to you would be to send employees home with full pay or formally consult on making a temporary change to their employment contract.

If your business can continue without power, there are other factors that need to be considered. These could include the impact on employees’ childcare/or carers. It may be that as a result of the blackout, childcare/carer settings may not be able to open and there could be an increase of emergency/time off for dependents leave requests. In addition to this transport provision could affect employees safely getting to and from work.

At Professionals in Partnership, we would advise that a health and safety review is undertaken for the possible impact of an energy blackout and some companies may already have this covered in their Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery plans.

The Health and Safety review would include, fire alarms, any storage such as refrigeration, machinery and facilities. Reviewing the details of your employees, their requirements and flexibility on their location would enable the business to understand if other considerations would need to be made, such as lone working and how an energy blackout would affect those working from home.

Communication with the employees is important in these types of situations. Clear communication is needed detailing the business continuity plan and what is expected in terms of the employees’ work. Information on who to contact for should there be any related concerns should be shared with employees and consideration should be given to communication with customers/clients and suppliers.