Editors Column - Your Workforce and Mother Nature

By Don Phin, Esq., V.P. at ThinkHR

When Mother Nature hits with a fury, is your company prepared to support employees with the right action right away? Whether or not your office is in a region where inclement weather is a frequent threat, having a natural disaster plan and inclement weather policy is not just smart, it’s strategic. It demonstrates that you care about the safety and well-being of your staff and their family members.

Creating a policy isn’t as difficult as one might think. There are no regulations surrounding how to handle staff during inclement weather conditions; it is simply a matter of what the company will do while ensuring wage and hour compliance.

Some companies will permit nonexempt (hourly) employees to use vacation or paid time off (PTO) balances to cover unpaid work days, while other organizations may provide pay in lieu of unpaid work days during office closure days due to inclement weather. While the latter option is less common, it is a commendable benefit offered to the employee when budget permits.

Things to consider when creating an inclement weather policy:
•    The process for determining office closure for full and partial days, such as weather alert, state of emergency notification, level of snow dropped or expected, earthquake magnitude, fire, flooding, hurricane, power outages, etc.
•    A notification system and process for effective communication to and from employees; such as a call tree, text alert, etc.
•    Determination of how the company will manage pay under federal and state wage and hour regulations to ensure employees are compensated fully during natural disasters.
•    Overtime pay and what will be permitted.
•    Leave pay and what options an employee may have, such as using leave accrual to cover any gaps in pay.
•    Productivity, including what roles may work remotely.
•    How to properly handle situations when employees cannot safely travel to work when the office is open.
•    Consideration of how to address circumstances that may arise beyond a standard policy, for example, how to support
employees with household needs like displacement, home repairs, child care, or medical needs.

Regardless of if your company is in an area that routinely or rarely experiences such incidents, creating and providing your employees with a policy provides an advanced notice what they may expect should a weather or natural disaster issue escalate. Creating a policy to support your workforce prior to Mother Nature’s strike provides peace of mind for both the company and workforce. Don’t fool with Mother Nature, draft your policy now for the long-term future.

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