Companies may wish to have an inclement weather policy, whether they do business in a coastal region prone to hurricanes or are located in regions that face major snowstorms. Inclement weather can arise with little warning, yet can present serious risks to employees who try to battle their way into the workplace. We spoke with Tanya Johnson, an HR consultant at Paychex, to learn more about best practices on creating such a policy.
Create and Communicate a Clear Policy Early
If you choose to add such a policy it should clearly outline specific factors around inclement weather and be communicated to employees. Ideally, the policy should be decided on and communicated with employees well in advance of actual bad weather. Ensure that everyone receives a copy of the policy, that it resides in your employee handbook, and that it's reiterated to workers by management. In the policy, be sure to address:
- The company's policies regarding office closures
- What the policy means for employee pay, time, and reporting
- How and when employees will be advised of an office closure
Guidelines to Include In the Policy
According to Johnson, your policy should clearly state how pay is handled when either the employer is closed or when an employee cannot report to the office due to inclement weather. She says, "For instance, will the time be paid or unpaid? If it is unpaid, will employees be allowed to use an option of vacation, sick time, or PTO? Or, can the time be just unpaid or can it be made up? These rules typically relate to your non-exempt employees. Based on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations, exempt employees must be paid their salary if they performed any work during the work week. If the employer closes the office for the day, an exempt employee must be paid." Companies should understand the regulations that impact their policies around payroll, and communicate their policy clearly to employees.
Could Telecommuting Solve Key Challenges?
If an office is closed due to bad weather or travel conditions impede ability for employees in certain locations to report to the office telecommuting may be an option. If this is the case, Johnson notes, employers should make sure they have a telecommuting policy in place as well. "In particular, if the company allows non-exempt employees to work from home on severe weather days, they should make sure employees are properly recording their hours and are aware of the need to request approval before working any overtime hours," says Johnson.
Dealing With Abuse
The vast majority of employees will use inclement weather policies to stay safe in the event of bad weather. However, when a policy is being abused, it's important to take action. Johnson has experience from her time as an HR consultant and advises, "In the event an employee abuses or misuses the policy, you should begin the progressive discipline process. Sit down with the employee and discuss expectations. If abuse continues the employer may wish to issue either a verbal or written warning, depending on the severity and frequency of the abuse. Remember to apply progressive discipline consistently. In my experience, when you're counseling the employee on the issue it's always best to frame your concern from a business standpoint so that it doesn't come across as a personal attack. Take this time to explain the business reasons for why you need the individual at work. For example: Your position handles ABC part of our business. When you do not arrive into work as expected, our performance for the day becomes backlogged and eventually affects the workload of other departments that are filling in."
An inclement weather policy should be considered, regardless of where in the world your team is based. Every climate has challenging weather, from snowstorms to tornadoes to hurricanes. Establishing a clear policy around what employees can expect on bad weather days will balance the need to prioritize employee safety with customer service and health.