Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Employment policies in the polar vortex

How frigid are the temperatures going to be in Northeast Ohio today? Just about everything is closed. Even the post office suspended mail delivery. Just because you remain open for business does not mean that your employees will be in a position to get to work. Pipes burst. Furnaces break. Cars die. And with schools closed, many parents need to remain home with their children.

In light of these historically low temperatures, here are five key considerations for workplace severe-weather policies, including including how to handle issues such as attendance, wage and hour, and telecommuting:

  1. Communication. How will your business communicate to its employees and the public 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? Phone chains, email blasts, text messages, and even social media updates are all effective tools to communicate this essential information.

  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? 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 must 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? If your company closes but an employee does not get word and reports to work, will the company pay that employee anything for reporting?

  4. Attendance. Will the absence be counted against employees in a no-fault or other attendance policy, or defeat any perfect attendance bonuses?

  5. Telecommuting. If your area has frequent bouts of severe weather, consider whether you want to allow employees to telecommute. Even if your business does not typically permit employees to work from home, exceptions for exceptional weather could potentially save you lost productivity.

Please be safe and stay warm.

* Photo by Thom Holmes on Unsplash