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Inclement Weather Policies

Source: United Benefit Advisors (UBA)

With record-breaking snowfall and low temperatures this winter, companies have had to revisit their inclement weather policies in order to keep employees safe and content. Those that have clearly written policies and procedures are ahead of the game as they are better able to inform their employees of closings and delays quickly and efficiently, thus reducing confusion and increasing employee production.

While many employers think that if they are in warm weather states, they don’t need a policy, but those employers should look at whether they’re in an area that can experience other natural disasters. Flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, dust storms, brush fires, etc. can all wreak havoc on any business.

According to an article in SHRM: Society for Human Resource Management magazine, companies are not required to have an inclement weather policy, but they would be wise to address what employees should do if they’re concerned about coming in to work if conditions are not safe. Moreover, companies should have a communications plan in place on what to do should their business need to close for any reason.

If a company is drafting an inclement weather policy, the first step needed is to determine how employees will be notified of a closure or delay. Will they receive a phone call, text message, email, etc. or will they need to visit a website, dial into a special hotline, watch the local news, or listen to the radio? Of these, email is often the least reliable simply because some employees may not have it.

Once a method or methods of delivery have been established, a company will need to designate a specific person or group of people (e.g., department heads, supervisors, etc.) to make a decision to close or delay and to communicate these announcements. If employees are absolutely essential and must come in regardless of conditions, or if the office is closed, they will need to be identified. These expectations must be clearly conveyed to those vital employees.

A company will also need to consider what to do when an employee chooses to voluntarily stay at home. Whether this is addressed in the employee handbook or elsewhere, a system should be in place for missing work for any reason, and the system needs to be communicated. For example, can hourly employees use vacation time to cover a weather-related day off or delay in arriving for work or will they be allowed to make up the time? If employees are nonexempt, then a company is only required to pay them for the time they worked. Exempt employees, on the other hand, generally must be paid their full salary. If exempt employees choose to stay away from the office, will they be expected to telecommute or do other types of work-related duties? Procedures will need to be provided to employees as to who they need to contact and how to report that they are voluntarily staying at home.

Finally, a company should always emphasize that employees should place their safety as the number one priority when deciding whether or not to report to work. Does a company want to be so demanding that it is willing to risk the safety of its employees? Furthermore, an employer should realize that an employee may need to stay home in inclement weather due to something beyond their control. For example, they could live in a rural area that has not had the snow plowed/removed yet, their house could be flooded, or the power could be out, their children’s school could be closed, or a babysitter may not be available.

Employers with rigid policies may find that quality workers are not willing to stay with the company, or are becoming overly stressed with worries of whether they need to place the needs of the company over their own well-being. When that happens, employees may start using fake excuses not to come in to work, or they may resent an employer for causing undue hardship. This doesn’t mean that an employer needs to be overly lenient with its employees, but a fair, equitable, and clearly communicated inclement weather plan will go a long way to having good employee relations.

Did you know…

UBA has a certified solution provider specifically for disaster recovery? Events such as power blackouts or a broken water pipe can be just as disruptive for companies as a major natural disaster. For information on how you can protect your business with a service that can provide power, technology, workspaces, and connectivity for businesses in need, contact ClearPath Benefit Advisors and ask about Agility Recovery.