December 1, 2020
Inclement Weather Policies: Preparing Your Business for the Unexpected

There are many unpredictable forces out of our control, such as the weather and other natural disasters. From blizzards to tornadoes to hurricanes to heavy rainfall, severe weather can affect employees’ ability to get to work as well as your company’s operations. These unpredictable events are why every employer must have an inclement weather policy. 

Your top priority during extreme and dangerous conditions should always be the safety of your people. With a comprehensive policy in place, each staff member will understand how inclement weather will impact their job, pay, and expectations.

If you do not have an inclement weather policy in place, it’s not too late to create one and ensure your employees’ and your business’s safety. You may not be able to predict every type of emergency, but you will put your team in a much better position when you have a response plan in place. 

Read on for the six most important factors to consider when developing your policy.

Prepare for common inclement weather emergencies.

Prepare as best as you can by making sure your policy covers the most common natural disasters and emergencies, such as: 

  • Approaching severe weather like hurricanes or wildfires
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Heavy snowfall in a short period
  • Power outages or other essential facility issues (e.g., broken heating or air conditioning systems or frozen/burst pipes)
  • Flooding affecting roads, transportation, or facilities
  • Declaration of a state of emergency in which residents are advised to stay home

When developing your inclement weather policy, consider your city and region. What types of natural phenomena are characteristic of your area? How might they affect your company and your staff’s ability to get to work? Plan with these specifics in mind, and you will be able to adapt quickly and easily in other situations.

Employers should also follow guidelines by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and their local/state governments.

Provide guidelines for employees.

Many companies follow the federal government as general guidelines for employees to follow. A sample inclement weather policy by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) states that:

  • If federal government offices close, the company closes, and employees will be paid for the day or hours they were scheduled to work.
  • If the federal government announces a liberal leave policy, the company will be open, and employees will be expected to make reasonable efforts to get to work.

Above is one example of a simple starting point for corporate inclement weather policies. Your company, however, may need to address more specific needs based on your type of workplace, geographic location, and individual employee needs.

Establish a communication plan.

Put a plan in place to inform all of your staff, customers, suppliers, or any other stakeholders who were planning on coming to your location during the closure. Set up a phone tree starting with management to contact everyone about the closing as soon as possible. Larger companies should notify local radio and television networks and use social media, texts, and email to quickly reach many people.

Additionally, reassure your employees that they should only come to work if they can make it safely. State that you do not encourage employees to commute to work in unsafe conditions.

Consider individual employee situations.

Following inclement weather, some employees may not be able to get to work due to:

  • Damage to home or vehicle
  • Unavailable mass transit
  • Loss of support/resources such as school or daycare
  • Loss of family members

One employee may need extra time off to repair extensive damages to their home. Another may not have a way to get to work due to a damaged vehicle or broken down public transportation.

Evaluate each employee’s situation on a case-by-case basis. Employees and managers should maintain an open line of communication to make the process smoother. Include a section on individual staff member needs in your inclement weather policy that explains how management will handle these instances and employees’ responsibilities.

To address tragedies such as a family member’s death following a natural disaster or weather emergency, note your organization’s bereavement policy. Base extended leave decisions on the employee’s needs.

Define how employees will be paid and benefits coverage.

All inclement weather policies should also include an explanation of how employees will be paid. Depending on your business and employees, you may also want to note how exempt vs. non-exempt employees will be paid and for how much.

For example, your policy might stipulate that exempt employees will receive their full salary for their regular hours worked for up to one workweek. Non-exempt employees and interns will receive their hourly pay for their normally scheduled hour for up to one workweek with no overtime to be paid.

It is also important to state if and when employees must use paid time off (PTO) during extended periods of inclement weather. In the same example above, an employer could note that employees must use PTO if the emergency lasts longer than one workweek. This policy will ensure your staff gets paid even if the business has to be shut down for some time.

If an emergency runs longer than expected, workers may worry about their benefits coverage. Let them know how long the company will provide coverage for essentials like their health insurance, life insurance, and short- and long-term disability insurance during a closure.

Decide who can work from home.

When outlining your inclement weather policy, consider which employees are prepared and capable of working from home. This is also an essential factor in determining how you can keep your business running even if your team can’t work onsite or in the office. 

Who can do their jobs virtually? Who can keep performing critical duties? Keep a master list of essential tasks and ask your team who can work from home. It is also vital to have a plan for managing your remote workforce. Your department heads can help manage this process and workflow. 

Developing Comprehensive Inclement Weather Policies

While you may not have control over Mother Nature or the ability to see into the future, there are measures you can take to ensure the safety of your employees and the security of your business. Your corporate inclement weather policy should detail:

  • Common types of weather emergencies.
  • Guidelines for employees to follow and know the initial steps.
  • A communication plan.
  • Handling individual employee situations.
  • How employees will be paid and benefits coverage.
  • A remote work plan.

Both employment laws and weather conditions vary from state to state. To ensure your company establishes a compliant inclement weather policy that accounts for your area’s natural occurrences, contact BlueLion at 603-818-4131 or info@bluelionllc.com. Our HR experts will help you create a plan that protects your entire organization.

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.

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