National tragedies such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, earthquakes, serious fires, and any other event that destroys the homes and livelihood of employees require a special response from employers. Even more minor issues like a foot of snow, the loss of electricity, or flooding can make the physical presence of employees at work difficult or impossible. Beyond the effect of these events on employees, they are also likely to affect the ability of the business or organization to remain open and serving customers.
Consequently, employers need to think through the possible emergency events that could disrupt their ability to open. They need to formulate policies about what employees can expect when inclement weather makes it impossible to get to work. It is much better to be prepared than to try to set policy on the fly in the event of an emergency.
Employers have legal obligations to employees and they have relationship obligations. Many employees believe that, in the event of an emergency situation, the employer should cover all related costs. This is not feasible. If an employee misses three weeks of work because his home was flooded and without power, is it fair to assume that the employer will pay the employee? Of course, the employee will need to use paid time off or apply for an extended unpaid leave.
On the other hand, in situations where the employer cannot open the business, it is reasonable to ask employers to shoulder some of the costs to maintain their relationships with their employees. The employer will not be able to afford to pay non-working employees for an extended period of time and still have a job available for the employees when the business reopens if he is not taking in money from customers, however.
So, the inclement weather policy must set expectations, present a balanced approach to compensation, mitigate risks for both employers and employees, and present a fair solution for emergency situations. It should be researched, created, communicated, and signed in advance of any inclement weather or other emergency events. When employees know what to expect, they can plan and feel confident about the employer’s predicted actions.
I’ve already recommended what employers need to do about pay legally when a snow day, rain day or other emergencies affect employees working.
Implement an Inclement Weather and Other Emergency Policy
These recommendations constitute an inclement weather policy that informs employees about what they can expect from their employer in response to an emergency situation. The policy focuses on:
- Company closure,
- Part-day closure,
- When an employee cannot physically get to work, and
- When an employee needs time to repair damages from an emergency.
You may adapt the policy for your organization and your organization's culture, but keep in mind the potential disasters in your region as you customize this sample inclement weather policy for your organization.