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UK Blackouts – what do Employers need to know?

By Victoria Brown

By Victoria Brown

With the potential 'worst case scenario' of UK blackouts this winter, Victoria looks at the implications for employers.

We have all read recently about how the government are currently stress-testing programme Yarrow.  This is a confidential plan put in place to cope with potential energy blackouts.  John Pettigrew, National Grids CEO, said that this was a ‘worst case scenario’, but nevertheless emergency plans are in place. He attributed the low energy supplies to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has put a significant strain on the UK power grid.

Whilst it seems unlikely that the UK will be plunged into darkness during this winter, nothing surprises me anymore, so as business owners it is important, we have a plan in place.  There is still a risk of implemented blackouts which will be in rolling, three-hour cuts to power between 4-7pm.

What is the challenge?

Many Organisations now have some sort of home working in place since the pandemic, they therefore need to consider internet connectivity problems, lighting etc.  My suggestion would be to put an emergency plan in place and consider what challenges your Organisation would face if we had blackouts.  If Managers are fully briefed and prepared for this worst-case scenario, then it will prevent unnecessary panic and reduce unwanted impact on service delivery etc. 

There is the ability for office environments/ professional services to operate hours more flexibly to work around such blackouts.  However, sectors such as manufacturing, hospitality etc. may need to consider other options.  Employers need to review policies/contracts of employments for a shortage of work clause, as this may enable them to place staff on short time working, and reduce pay during blackout periods. It may also be possible for Employers to give notice to staff to take unused holiday leave.  Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, an Employer can give notice to staff when to take holidays, but the notice must be twice the period of the leave to be taken.

Safety considerations

Temperature in buildings

There is no legal requirement to keep a workplace to a certain temperature, although 16 degrees Celsius is an official recommendation.

Risk Analysis

Our H&S experts at HPC have advised that completing a risk analysis of the risks that may be presented to employees during a blackout is important.  We need to ensure we put safety and the wellbeing of our people as a number one priority.  The use of machinery, lighting may present a danger if we are faced with a blackout.

If you need some further HR or H&S advice on this, please contact the HPC team

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