By Melissa Walker
Many business websites recommend companies have a snow day or emergency policy to avoid any potential confusion when such a situation occurs. Things to consider when creating a policy include:
Will the office close or stay open?
Employers also should always make the decision themselves and not put pressure on employees to decide. Any policy needs to detail what constitutes an inclement weather day or an emergency in which the office would be closed. If authorities are telling people to stay inside and off of the roads, that’s a good indicator that the business should close for the day.
In the case of snow or another type of emergency that would cause the office to close, employers must have a set policy in how they notify employees that the office will close. Make sure employees know how and by when they will be contacted. The decision should be made early enough that no employee is already on the road if the business owner decides to close for the day.
How are the road conditions?
If the roads are reasonably clear, all employees may be required to show up. Keep in mind, however, that some employees’ routes will not be clear. Some may choose not come in and others may be late. The policy needs to account for those actions and whether the employee will be penalized. Business owners are not required to pay an employee who chooses not to come into work or for the hours he or she missed unless the employee is salaried. Employers should be reasonable and make allowances for those employees who reasonably cannot make it in to work.
Who is required to show up?
Some employees are critical to a business’ operations. Even if the business closes because of weather or an emergency, those employees may still be required to come into work. For example, if the business provides web hosting for other companies, a network engineer may be required to come into the office to ensure servers run smoothly, but other employees will be allowed to stay home.
Are there other options for employees to complete work?
If work needs to be done, but the employee does not want to come in, give him or her the option to work from home. Business owners can still require an employee to log in and complete work even if he or she cannot come into the office. Telecommuting can be a good option to keep employees safe in the case of bad road conditions but ensures work is completed.
What are your legal obligations?
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued two opinion letters regarding whether employees must be paid in cases of emergency or if the office is closed by the business. If an hourly employee misses work because the owner or manager closed the business for either a full or partial day, then the employee should be paid his or her regular pay for the day. Businesses can require salaried employees to use a paid personal or vacation day, or pay them for that day.
The department’s opinion letter takes into account absence because of adverse weather conditions including situations when there are difficulties with transportation because of a snow emergency. ♦