Businesses should prepare for the possibility of closure later this week if a red weather warning is issued in the coming days.

If it happens, it will be the first red weather warning since Hurricane Ophelia in October last year.

ISME, the independent representative of small and medium enterprises, is advising employers to take time to put measures in place to reduce the potential impact on business.

Chief Executive of ISME, Neil McDonnell, also sounded a note of caution to the government about shutting the country down unless it is absolutely necessary

"We are not in favour of, unless they are absolutely necessary, these catch all announcements from government that everything must stop. Those type of warnings should not be issued unless it's absolutely necessary to do so," Neil McDonnell said.

He said it is very possible that business closures will not be necessary on this occasion, but businesses should prepare for the possibility.

Ibec issued a statement this evening saying it had noted the severe weather warnings. "We encourage all businesses to assess the situation carefully and to develop appropriate contingency plans that put employee safety first and mitigate potential disruption."

ISME said as employers have a duty of care for all employees under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, a key consideration needs to be whether, in the circumstances, it is safe to ask employees to travel to work, or to undertake their work.

The potential risk could be greater for certain roles or in certain sectors such as "on-the-road" sales positions or in the construction sector where outside work is required.

Mr McDonnell said employers should ensure they have up to date contact information for all employees within the organisation in case a last minute decision needs to be communicated to staff members.

"Where your employment contracts allow for a period of "lay off," you may want to put employees on notice that this clause could be invoked at short notice later on in the week," he said.

He also advised businesses to consider whether any steps can be put in place to reduce the impact on customers. "For example, is remote working a possibility for your employees? Would this help to diminish the impact on your customers/clients? Is there a contact number that could be provided in the event of an urgent issue arising?"

ISME also advise that where a business closure does not occur, employees should be made aware who they should contact in the event that they are unable to attend work due to the weather conditions. 

"Flexibility should be allowed for employees, especially those who have some distance to travel. Where employees are present in the workplace, care should be taken to remain vigilant for any worsening conditions and cancelled/amended travel services throughout the day. Consideration should also be given to how long it will take somebody to commute home safely," Mr McDonnell said.