Published Date: 01/06/2014
By George Ports
As winter brings colder air and the potential for ice and snow, it seems appropriate to spend some time reviewing your inclement weather policy.
The opening or closing of your business during bad weather is a matter of policy for each company to decide for itself. You will want to ensure you have the necessary policy and process in place and information disseminated to all employees well in advance of inclement weather. As with all policies, communication is the key to ensuring that employees are well informed and everyone is on the same page when it comes to whether a business is going to open or shut down due to weather.
Many aspects of your business are affected by inclement weather, as is each individual working with your organization. Transportation concerns, commute time and distance, other businesses and school closings will all impact whether each employee will be able to make it to work in times of severe weather. When either drafting or reviewing a policy for inclement weather, consider the following:
1. Communicate your written policy or plan for all employees in advance of any inclement weather.
Clear communication is the key to ensuring your employees will know whether your business is open or closed due to weather. Determine what communication systems or means you will use to communicate your plan. Television and radio are extremely helpful but can take considerable time to provide completed lists in a timely fashion dependent upon when your business makes the call. Consider additional communication systems, a message center, call in procedures, email, or a combination of several.
Consider if there are key employees who must report and/or essential functions that must be performed regardless of whether the facility closes. Identify those essential employees and business functions, as well as other critical aspects (contractors, suppliers, business services and logistics) required to maintain your business operations in case of such a disruption. Explore how best to communicate with people who perform these essential functions and how you will communicate tasks and work direction.
2. Closing once everyone is at work.
Consider how you will shut down your facility/business if inclement weather forces you to stop operations once everyone is at work. Communication with your management team to provide clear direction on the process to properly close the business will be imperative. Deciding which employees will be able to leave early or first and how many you need to delay leaving in order to efficiently close operations will require some pre-planning.
3. Attendance and wage and hour issues must be considered.
Employees will need to know how weather-related absences will affect their attendance. There are several scenarios to consider (i.e., company is open and employee does not feel safe driving; company is closed but employee can work from home; company opens late or closes early; employee does not get word of closing and reports to work, etc.).
Employees must know how their pay will be affected.
Exempt employees are paid on a salaried basis. If the company is closed, the exempt must be paid for the day(s) to maintain the exemption status. It is the company’s decision as to whether exempts are required to take a vacation day. Keep in mind that if the exempt does not have vacation or PTO to cover the absence, the exempt must be paid.
If the office is open and the exempt decides not to report to work, the day can be charged to vacation or PTO. If in this situation the exempt does not have vacation or PTO, the company is allowed to dock for the day due to personal reasons. This is one of the allowed deductions under the FLSA without destroying the exemption status. Be reminded, however, that if the exempt works any part of the day, the exempt must be paid for the entire day. This often comes in to play when the exempt does not come into work but works a partial day from a laptop or other electronic device.
Non-exempt employees pay will be determined by the company policy, whether they are paid for a full day’s work if the company closes, for part of the day, or for no hours at all. Your policy should address the use of vacation or any other paid time off for use during closing for inclement weather.
Preparedness, a written policy and excellent communication are the best practices to ensure you are prepared for any storm. Share your inclement weather plans with employees now and clearly communicate expectations.
If you have questions about inclement weather policies, please contact a member of CAI's Advice & Resolution Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.