Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Inclement weather policies should prioritize safety over productivity

Snow day! Norah went to bed with PJs on backwards last night (and received her wish; now please use your time wisely to work on homework). Donovan is going to be pissed because tonight’s Mathmagic night at school (which he was really looking forward to) will be cancelled. And me? I’m enjoying some flexibility by working from the comfort of my kitchen island. If the storm forecast holds as predicted, however, I'll be giving myself lots of extra travel time tomorrow morning for a court appearance. #lawyerlife

What about your business?

There is no law that governs whether businesses must, or even should, stay open during bad weather. Instead, it is simply a matter of policy for each company to decide for itself. Like all policies, communication is the key to ensuring that employees are all on the same page when it comes to whether a business is going to open or shut down to account for bad weather.

Bad weather will affect different employees differently. Commute times and distances, methods of transportation, and school closings will all impact whether a certain employee will be able to make it to work when bad weather hits. In drafting a policy for inclement weather, consider the following:
  1. Communication. How will your business communicate to its employees whether it is open for business or closed because of the weather? Are there essential personnel that must report regardless of whether the facility closes? If an employee does not get word of a closure and reports to work anyway, will the company pay that employee for reporting?

  2. Early closing. If a business decides to close early because of mid-day snowstorm, how will it account for the orderly shut-down of operations on that day? Which employees will be able to leave early and which will have to remain to ensure that the facility is properly closed? Is there essential crew that must stay, or is there an equitable means to rotate who can stay and who can leave?

  3. Wage and hour issues. To avoid jeopardizing exempt employees’ status, they should be be paid their full salary when a company closes because of weather. For non-exempt employees, however, it is entirely up to the company whether to pay them for a full day’s work, for part of the day, or for no hours at all. Will employees have to use vacation or other paid time off if they want to be paid for the day, or will the company consider it a freebee?

  4. Attendance. Will the absence be counted against employees in a no-fault or other attendance policy, or defeat any perfect attendance bonuses?
My two cents? Safety is more important than work. When in doubt, play it safe. Is it essential that your employees come to work in severe weather? If not, give them the day off. Must your business remain open? If not, close for the day. In my opinion, it’s not worth risking your employees’ safety for a few extra hours of work.