No, we’re not the Starks from “Game of Thrones”, but winter IS coming. Is your business ready to manage through inclement weather and all that goes with it? According to a Travelers Insurance survey of small businesses, almost 44 percent have no plan in place to keep the business going in case of a severe weather event. There are a number of facets to this:

Making the decision to close, alter business hours, or stay open –

If you have an employee manual, review your inclement weather policy and update it as needed. If you don’t have an employee manual, Alternative HR can help you create one that reflects your company’s values and culture. Are you a sole proprietor who calls the shots, or would you prefer to get your leadership team together and make the call? You could even choose to piggyback on other local decisions like that of the school district closest to your location. If they close, you close.

Whatever policy you choose, repetition in the communication of your policy is important.  Email it, talk about it, post memos on lunchroom bulletin boards. Redundancy is your friend.

Notification process for employees –

The good old phone tree worked well for years, but by now the majority of your employees are probably online via computer or mobile devices.  A text or email could suffice to get to everyone, but for redundancy and therefore a better chance of catching every team member, consider putting your closing or other change info on local TV and or radio.

Payment policies in cases of inclement weather –

Exempt (salaried) and non-exempt (hourly) employees are handled differently under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Non-exempt employees are only paid for hours worked, so if the company is closed for the day the employee is often permitted to use a vacation day or personal day (if offered in company policy) to be paid for the closed day. Some companies choose to include inclement weather days in their vacation policies to prevent employees from having to use vacation time for snow.

For exempt employees, when the office is open but they choose to stay home they could be required to use accrued PTO or forfeit pay for the day they did not appear at work.  If, however, the business closes for the day the exempt employee must be paid for a full week. This is because they did not have the opportunity to work the full week due to the closure. Some businesses have remote workers or the ability to work remotely even though an exempt employee is usually in the office.  In these cases the company may opt to pay the employee for work at home just like the business would pay for the employee to do the same work at the office.

Attendance policies on severe weather days –

If roads are dangerous but you don’t want to close the business, you can choose to invoke Liberal Leave. This allows employees to take an unplanned absence using a vacation day or personal day as long as they notify their supervisors. Remember that when your employees drive to work in poor conditions they could sustain injuries or damage to their primary work transportation. A decision to be “hard core” about attendance in severe weather could cost team members and the business big bucks. This is also a place where remote working can help to keep productivity going even when the office has to be closed.

Safety practices onsite related to snow and ice conditions-

We have already touched on productivity issues, but there are also real safety issues in inclement weather. What is the tradeoff between production output and worker safety?  In addition to road conditions, consider the preparation of your workplace parking lot, sidewalks, etc. that needs to be done before employees and/or customers drive and walk on them. Fender benders and falls create risks for the business as well as pain for those affected.

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