Severe weather emergencies can range from thunderstorms and tornadoes to snow and sleet. You must prepare your business for closure when employees could experience dangerous conditions trying to make it to their place of employment. But, are these policies set in stone? Do you make your own policies? Let’s take a closer look so you can be prepared when severe weather is expected.

Severe Weather Labor Laws

Severe weather policies are to be decided by each individual employer. There are no labor laws that require an employer to have such a policy in place. If you don’t have one yet, here are a few things to take into consideration.

Severe Weather Policy in Employee Handbook

Businesses should examine their inclement weather verbiage in the employee handbook to ensure that employees understand the company’s policies for these events and what is expected of them when these situations arise.

  • Determine when the business will close. Employee safety should always be a top priority. Many of your employees may not live close to the office, so dangerous driving conditions must be taken into consideration. Many businesses look to the news channels to help them determine if they will close or not. For example, if your local news station says that people should stay home and stay off the roads, then businesses should consider closing. During a storm, it is important to continually monitor winds, snow depths, road conditions, temperature and other factors to determine if an early closing is acceptable.
  • Define how closures will be communicated. In today’s digital world, it’s easy to keep in touch with employees, even when you are miles away. You can post the closure on your company web site, or send text messages and/or emails to employees. The HR Department should ensure that employee information (address and phone numbers) are up to date. Be sure that employees know where to look for updates. 

In addition, if your website needs to be updated on a daily basis, make sure a dedicated employee or agency knows this so that it can be done in a timely manner.

  • Assign responsibilities amongst employees. Some businesses need to have staff on call in order to continue operating.  Perform an analysis of your business and determine what staffing level is needed. Essential employees need to be told that they are expected to be at the office, regardless of weather conditions, or that they need to be available to work from home.
  • Be able to telecommunicate. With today’s advanced technology, much of your professional workforce can do some or all of their job from home. Be sure these employees know their expectations and have the tools needed to work at home.
  • Define pay rules. Employees being paid salary are typically guaranteed their normal pay regardless of inclement weather. Some employers will pay hourly workers for their scheduled shift in the event of a closure, but it is not required. If employees are sent home early, you have the option to pay employees the balance of the remaining shift, but again, it is not required.
  • Determine how absences will be affected. Be sure employees know whether a missed day due to dangerous weather will count towards vacation time or sick balances. These questions need to be addressed in your employee handbook. Define these rules for both salaried employees and hourly employees.

Company Liability During Inclement Weather

You may want to contact your attorney to discuss logistics such as how to limit company liability.  Items to address include accidents that occur inside the workplace due to weather, accidents on the road involving the use of a company vehicle, or accidents due to a dangerous commute to work during bad weather. These factors may impact your weather related decisions, result in new procedures or warrant a revision of your policies in the employee handbook.

A written weather policy in the employee handbook ensures that your policies will be implemented consistently, and that employees know the rules. It will also set the proper expectations and eliminate any guesswork by your managers and employees.