Having a strong inclement weather policy in place at your organization is crucial as the winter months arrive. Communicating to staff about what happens at the office during severe weather and unsafe driving conditions is a must. All employees need to know what to expect during the months ahead.
There are two main points to consider when implementing an inclement weather policy: pay and employee safety. Here’s what you and your colleagues need to consider when establishing such a policy at your company.
Should Employees Be Paid During Inclement Weather Shutdowns?
Whether or not employees must be paid during an inclement weather shutdown depends on if they are classified as exempt or nonexempt employees.
For nonexempt employees, the employer decides whether or not the workplace remains open—and is not required to pay employees for absences due to bad weather, based on the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employees must be paid for hours worked during half-day closings. Additionally, individual state regulations may require your organization to pay employees a minimum number of hours if they report to work, even if the actual number of hours worked is less.
For half-day closures, your company can decide whether or not to pay employees for a full day. You can offer extra hours on regular workdays in an effort to compensate for lost work hours. If applicable, consider introducing paid work from home options or letting employees use paid time off (if they have it) during inclement weather. Be sure your decision is spelled out in writing and details of your policy are clearly communicated to nonexempt employees.
Exempt employees are entitled to receive their full salary, even on inclement weather days. You can construct employee contracts—and an inclement weather policy—to state that exempt employees must use vacation or other paid time off days during inclement weather, or be allowed to work from home without using paid time off.
The option to work remotely can also apply to employees who aren’t comfortable driving to work even if the office remains open. This is up to your company to decide.
Developing an Inclement Weather Policy
When developing a policy, it’s important to clearly present all of the details. A comprehensive policy should include:
- How nonexempt and exempt employees will be paid/not paid during partial-day and full-day closures
- What constitutes an inclement weather day
- What options for remote work or using paid time off are available during weather closures
- The methods used to contact employees during inclement weather closures
While your organization isn’t obligated to pay nonexempt employees during inclement weather shutdowns, you should use your best judgment to ensure your fellow employees know you have their best interest at heart.
Communicating Inclement Weather to Employees
To avoid having employees drive to work when it’s not safe (despite an inclement weather office closure), proper communication is vitally important. In your company’s inclement weather policy, clearly spell out the method of communication you will use, such as:
- Text message
- Phone call
- Another method
Determine this ahead of time, and make it known, so employees understand what to expect. It’s important to lay out details of the company policy in employee contracts, and keep lines of communication about it open.
Deciding When to Shut Down
It can be difficult to determine when to shut down the office due to bad weather. Nonexempt employees who only get paid for hours worked might be more willing to brave bad weather, or feel disappointed to hear about office closures. However, the consequences of not shutting down in bad weather can cost you money in the long run—and be dangerous for employees.
Watch your local weather channel carefully and pay close attention to school closings, as this is a good indicator of how severe the weather and roads are. When in doubt, the safety of your employees is the first priority. Use your best judgment about when to close, and how to compensate employees (or let them work from home) during shutdowns.
Looking for tools and resources to help your employees manage their benefits? Take some time to explore out the Employer Toolkit hosted on United Concordia Dental’s website.