A winter season like we’ve had here in the Midwest is sure to make any employer contemplate their current policies. Whether or not to implement an inclement weather policy is the question.
There are many factors that complicate getting to work during inclement weather. Personal safety, school closings or delays, state of emergency, travel advisories and warnings, snow plow routes, and other business closings such as day care, should all be considered. Because of this, no company can really be sure to include every scenario in their company’s policies. But one thing is for certain, if there is an inclement weather policy to be written, details are important.
First, decide how the company will communicate with employees. Who contacts whom in the event of a company delay or closure? Prepare a phone tree to make sure everyone is contacted, or post the information online so that all employees are able to access it before leaving for work from home. Also, decide the preferred method for employees to communicate with their supervisors regarding their attendance status for the day. Employers must remember too that weather can vary throughout the surrounding areas. For example, snowfall around the worksite may not be the same as snowfall around an employee’s home who lives thirty miles away. Also, one employee’s idea of safe driving conditions may not be the same as another. It is crucial that employers have perspective in all situations and stress to each employee that their safety is paramount. All of these situations should be noted in a well written policy to aid in avoiding confusion.
Second, in the event that there is a delay or closure employees should understand their choices regarding paid time off. Will exempt employees be required to use paid time off, e.g. vacation time, sick time, etc. to cover the day(s) of an inclement weather absence? If nonexempt employees miss work because of a delay or closure, will they be permitted to make-up this time at a later date or are they required to use any available paid time off benefit(s) to cover the absence? Are nonexempt employees permitted to work from home, if appropriate? Is so, what is the process for approval and how do they record their time? May the employees take unpaid time if they desire, so as not to use all of their paid time off benefits? The answers to these questions will vary according to the size of the business and the industry, so it is important for each policy to be tailored to fit each company.
In some regions of the country where inclement weather is a frequent occurrence, employers may consider having a separate paid time off benefit for inclement weather days, like they would for personal time, vacation time, sick time, bereavement or jury duty. It may give peace of mind to employees who feel as if they’re using all of their available paid time off to cover their pay during bad weather days.
It is also important to keep in mind that an employee’s absence due to bad weather should not count against them in the event that they already have an attendance problem. The employee’s failure to come into work when authorities have advised against essential travel will likely not be considered disqualifying conduct in regards to unemployment claims. In this case consistently having employees and managers document the reasons for the absence(s) is a good rule to follow.
No matter how you look at it, inclement weather is a headache for businesses. But, with some planning and patience employers can minimize the stress for their managers and their employees through utilizing well written inclement weather policies.
For additional information on inclement weather policies or if your company needs assistance with developing and implementing a policy, please contact us.
Written by: Kristen Shingleton Deutsch, M.B.A., CCP
February 4, 2014