An Inclement Weather Policy can help employers and employees during dangerous weather and other natural disasters, but a poorly defined policy can put your business in danger of compliance issues and low employee morale.
While most employers have an Inclement Weather Policy in place, it is often forgotten and rarely updated, buried within the Employee Handbook and usually only referenced when a storm is on its way.
However, like any good HR policy, an Inclement Weather Policy should be periodically reviewed and updated to ensure it meets the latest workplace regulations, and shared with employees throughout the year so that expectations are clear.
Businesses should begin to review and share their Inclement Weather Policy now, before bad weather arrives, so there aren’t any surprises when hazardous weather hits.
Here are four important questions to consider when reviewing your Inclement Weather Policy:
1. Does your policy have clear decision and communication channels?
In the event of inclement weather or other natural disaster, it’s important to have a clearly defined and fast-traveling communication system to keep employees safe and avoid employee disgruntlement. If, for instance, you close your office for the day but an employee still commutes into work, not knowing the office is closed, they may feel the company doesn’t value their safety.
A good Inclement Weather Policy communicates who is responsible for deciding whether the office will remain open, how those decisions will be made, when they will be made, and how they will be communicated to employees, whether through phone, voice mail, email, company website or intranet. Employers should have at least two methods of communication, with one that employees can access in the event of a power outage.
2. Are your employees still required to work, either on-site or remotely?
For some businesses, such as hospitals, closing due to inclement weather is not an option. It is important to determine what the essential responsibilities of the business are, who will handle them, and how. Determine ahead of time who in your company will be expected to perform necessary operations and how they will be compensated. For instance, some businesses may choose to pay employees who either report in or work from home at an increased rate.
Similarly, businesses can require that employees work from home, if possible, during business closures. Keep in mind, however, that a policy requiring certain departments to work from home while not others can create significant employee relations issues.
3. Does your policy differentiate between exempt and non-exempt employees?
One of the biggest risks when it comes to inclement weather policies is compliance with the FLSA’s guidelines on compensating exempt vs. non-exempt employees.
Put simply, employers do not need to pay non-exempt employees in the event of inclement weather. Under the FLSA, employers need only pay non-exempt employees for actual hours worked, so if an employer closes the office, or if the office remains open but a non-exempt employee is unable to make it in, the employer isn’t required to pay that employee. Of course, employers can choose to pay non-exempt employees for their regular hours worked or allow them to use Paid Time Off (PTO) so the employee doesn’t lose their pay when the business is closed.
Some states have “report-in pay” laws that require employers to pay non-exempt employees an established minimum amount for any day the employee has reported to work. Check your state’s laws to see if this affects your business.
Conversely, employers must pay exempt employees, regardless of the hours actually worked. Regardless of whether an employer closes the office for a half or full day, they must still pay exempt employees their full weekly salary. Employers can choose to simply pay exempt employees or require them to use their PTO for any closures.
4. Are your employees aware of your Inclement Weather Policy?
Employers often include their Inclement Weather policy as part of their routine handbook, which should be updated and distributed to employees on an annual basis. However, many times the handbook is not sent out on a yearly basis, or if it is, employees either do not read it or misplace it.
For these reasons, it is a good idea to send out your Inclement Weather policy to employees at the beginning of the winter season. It is also beneficial to send it out prior to an immediate storm, and, if possible, to provide in electronic format over an intranet so employees can readily access it whenever they need to.
For help creating, revising, or ensuring the compliance of an Inclement Weather Policy, contact Tammy Sosnowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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