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Inclement Weather Policies—It's That Time of Year Again!

Inclement weather can have a serious impact on your business. Learn more about what policies can help your business increase productivity during the winter.

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Inclement weather can have a serious impact on your business. Learn more about what policies can help your business increase productivity during the winter.

Fall has come and gone, and summer seems like an eternity ago.  For those of us in New England, we know that nasty weather, including lots and lots of snow (and a few Nor’easters) is a matter of when, not if.  However, inclement weather is more than just a nuisance– it can have a significant impact on your business.  This is especially true for those within the manufacturing, distribution and retail sectors, all of which are heavily dependent on scheduling, staffing levels and production, especially during the holiday months.

Despite this annual New England certainty, managers and business leaders are often caught off guard when inclement weather hits and decisions must be made that balance the needs of the business and the safety of employees.  A sound inclement weather policy is a critical first step in ensuring that your business is well prepared, with the following tips to keep in mind:

Safety First

The safety of your employees should always be the #1 priority – be clear with employees that this is the case and that you ask that they use their best judgment in their commute decisions.

Communicate

Ensure that you have a strong communication plan for how to notify employees if the company is closed, closing early, or opening late. It’s also equally important to notify employees when your business is open, eliminating any uncertainty.  Group texts, posting on your intranet, “all company” emails and providing hotline numbers are common and can be reliable communication methods.

When Do You Close?

Determine under what conditions your company closes. Do you close only during travel bans, states of emergency, or in accordance with an internal executive decision? Explain this clearly in your policy.

Discuss Employee Options

Decide what options you want to provide your employees. If you are open but an employee wants to leave early, or not come in due to inclement weather, what are their options?  Will an attendance policy apply?  One best practice is to allow employees to use paid time off (if available) if they are going to miss work due to inclement weather.  Others will allow non-exempt/hourly employees to make up hours later in the week.  Exempt employees may be allowed to work from home, if appropriate.

Understand Your Obligations

Before deciding what options to provide, employers should become familiar with their obligations under both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state wage/hour law; for example, in Massachusetts, non-exempt employees who report to work expecting to work at least three hours and are then sent home must receive at least three hours of “reporting pay.” With some exceptions, exempt employees must generally be paid their full weekly salary if a business closes early or for a full day or more.

Showing Employees Appreciation

Recognize those employees that make the effort to get to work when the weather is bad. Bringing in lunch or providing a small gift such as a gas/transit card or AMEX/VISA gift card goes a long way in showing these employees your appreciation.

Consistency is Key

Regardless of what policy you implement, always be consistent – like any other policy, inconsistent application of your inclement weather policy will likely lead to morale issues or, in some cases, claims of discriminatory treatment. A more open-ended policy can be useful in allowing for management discretion, however, the application must always be consistent.

As an example, an inclement policy may begin as follows:

The safety of our employees is our #1 priority.  As such, when inclement weather occurs or is expected to occur, leadership will decide as to whether our business will open late, close early, or close entirely for the day.

All efforts will be made to notify employees as soon as possible – methods of communication may include “all company” texts and emails as well an announcement on our intranet.Creating an environment of caring, trust and consistency when bad weather strikes will help alleviate the stress that arises for both employers and employees, all of which will help mitigate negative impact on morale, productivity and ultimately, cost to your business.  You can then focus on the stress of shoveling your car out or wondering where you put your snow boots!

For assistance with your inclement weather policy, or any policy/handbook review and guidance, contact our HR Consulting team today!

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