In many places around the United States, bad weather can disrupt business operations. Whether you’re concerned about hurricanes, tornadoes or blizzards, a comprehensive inclement weather policy can guide operations and keep your employees safe.
The first step in creating an effective office policy is to define inclement weather as it relates to your city. If you live in a snowy region, you might close the office when visibility is low, roads are icy or temperatures drop below a certain point. Near the coast, the NOAA weather system can serve as a guide: continue business during a hurricane watch, and shut it down as soon a hurricane warning is issued. You can also include universal provisions and close business if the power is out or the heat isn’t working. Alternatively, prioritize your employees’ comfort by leaving the decision up to them. This enables workers with long commutes or dangerous drives to stay home or leave work early.
Based on the size of your workforce, determine a communication plan for weather-related changes to regular business operations. Tell employees to expect a closure/non-closure message via email one hour before the office opens, for example. That way, they know where and when to look for updates during inclement weather. If possible, send your closure message via multiple channels in case one is down due to a storm.
When your office is closed due to inclement weather, employees are likely to ask about their wages for that time. In general, you have several options: ask employees to work from home, deduct pay for the hours missed, require employees to take a paid vacation day or pay workers regardless of hours missed. Before you make a decision, consult your legal team — under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the law varies based on workers’ exempt or non-exempt status. The person making the decision is also a factor, so it’s important to make plans for two situations: when the office is closed, and when the office is open but an employee elects to stay home or leave early. If you have union employees or workers from a temp agency, review your contracts to determine the appropriate pay procedure.
Create an Operational Plan
Your office policy for inclement weather should address emergency operations. Are there any people who are required to report to maintain or shut down key systems? If the office closes mid-day, who is responsible for turning off the lights and locking the building? If a manager is stuck in a snowbank, who else has the power to open the office? This section of the policy should be tailored to your operations. If you run a 24-hour production facility, for example, shutting down completely could be impossible or prohibitively costly — in that case, you might require specific supervisors to come in, or set up a backup list of emergency fill-in workers.
If you work in an area that’s prone to inclement weather, creating a specific policy is a must. A clear, organized plan can minimize confusion and protect your operations, all while ensuring all employees stay safe.
Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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