“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
These infamous words about postal carriers are etched in granite over the entrance to the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue. While this noble sentiment might have worked for postal carriers in the days of yore, today’s workers have other guidance. Today, most organizations rely on an inclement weather policy to let employees know if they should come into work or stay home when bad weather strikes.
Most every climate has its share of challenging weather, including frigid temps, snow storms, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and threats of wildfires. Creating a clear inclement weather policy is important for employees so they know ahead of time what to expect when the weather turns bad.
Why your business needs an inclement weather policy
If it’s snowing, should your employees venture in to work? What if it’s sleeting but not snowing? If local authorities have put voluntary hurricane evacuation orders in place, do you expect employees to put in a full day at headquarters?
Having an inclement weather policy answers questions like these. With an inclement weather policy, your organization recognizes that bad weather can affect your business continuity. Inclement weather can also affect worker safety because employees may not be able to arrive safely at work.
What to include in your inclement weather policy
Most inclement weather policies focus on two important items: worker safety and pay policies.
Nothing is more important than making sure your employees arrive safely at work. But you’ll need to put some structure in place so employees know your expectations when a fierce storm approaches. Some items include:
- How far in advance the company will notify employees of a closing
- How employees will be notified. Do you expect them to call in? Or will they receive a text or notification via emergency communication system?
- If employees will be paid when the business is closed for bad weather (more on this below)
If travel conditions make coming to work a dangerous proposition, consider telecommuting as one way to keep business humming along. Non-exempt workers (generally speaking, hourly employees) should keep track of hours and ensure any overtime is approved beforehand.
Make sure your policy states how your company will handle pay if the office is closed or when the worker cannot come into the office due to poor weather. You’ll need to decide if the time is paid or unpaid for non-exempt workers. If it’s unpaid, can employees use paid time off (PTO) or sick days? Can employees make up unpaid time later? Exempt employees must be paid their salary if they performed any work during the work week, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). So, if your company closes the office for the day because of a monster snowstorm, exempt employees must be paid.
How does weather impact your business?
Winter weather impacts almost every location in the United States. Even parts of Hawaii get snow. But the impact varies wildly by location. Locations in the north might face blizzards or snow-ins, but are generally more resilient to snowy weather. Locations in the south, by contrast, might not see much snow but could completely shut down with the slightest precipitation. Make sure your policy includes the most likely winter hazards your business will face.
If you have business locations on the Atlantic coast, they will be impacted in some way by hurricanes at some point. Hurricanes will bring wind, rain, and, of course, flooding. Indirectly, hurricanes will cause food and gas shortages, impact travel, and disrupt supply chains. They even cause massive displacement. How will your business and its employees react to these things?
Businesses in the midwest will be threatened by tornadoes, whereas companies out west may be impacted by wildfires. Think about the weather your business locations may face. Some businesses will even have hyper-local concerns, for offices in flood zones or near fault lines.
Why planning ahead matters
Some companies may “leave it up to the employee” on whether or not they should come in to work.
That’s a bad idea.
Experts recommend putting an inclement weather policy in place before the first snowflake falls.
The Society for Human Resources Management cites the advice of attorney Paul DeCamp of Epstein, Becker & Green in Washington, D.C. and former administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division: “Employers should give serious thought to allowing employees to stay home on days when there is a significantly elevated risk of a traffic accident, as no employer wants to see an injury or fatality occur because an employee felt obligated to come to work even though the roads were not safe.”
With inclement weather policies, companies should definitely consider their worker safety first. Business may be interrupted if the office shuts down, but when it resumes, everyone can safely return and get back to work.
How to communicate to employees
Once your business creates an inclement weather policy, it’s up to you to make sure it’s placed in the employee handbook and each employee should receive a copy as well.
We recommend using a mass notification system that allows organizations to reach all employees (or just affected offices) with a few clicks. The popular Texas grocer H-E-B uses the AlertMedia platform to communicate with employees at all locations about severe weather and other issues. The platform can filter information based on location and department.
With a mass notification system, organizations can reach employees on any device through various channels. Options such as app push notifications, text, voice, email, and social media ensure maximum deliverability. Two-way messaging ensures employers can stay in touch with employees, even in emergency situations.
AlertMedia also has an innovative feature called Event Pages that puts all of the related inclement weather information in one place–with no limits to message length. Employees visit a single page where they can find updates, photos and videos, pertinent documents, and even moderated employee comment streams.
Creating an inclement weather policy is a smart business move. By having a solid policy in place and the means to communicate with employees, you’ll ensure they stay connected and informed in real time. When the business is able to reopen, employees will be ready and business can pick back up again. Good luck with winter weather this year, and stay safe!
Need help planning for inclement weather? Download our free eBook to learn how.