Does Your Inclement Weather Policy Leave You Shoveling Out of a Mess Each Time it Snows?

I heard a weather reporter on TV just a couple of days ago actually say, "Winter isn't done yet." Well, of course it isn't, in fact, we have only just passed the half-way point of winter. And that doesn't even count the wintry weather we almost always experience here in New England each spring.

So what does this have to do with human resources? Well, emergency and inclement weather closing issues. I had a flurry (get it?) of phone calls and e-mails asking what the company should do about paying employees when they close due to snow. Are they required to pay the employee who was otherwise scheduled to work? What should their policy be? What if employees can work at home? What if they don't close, but someone cannot make it in to work? What if they close the business early on a snowy day, or in an emergency situation? All very valid and important questions.

The answer to all these questions, and the many other questions that face employers that experience inclement weather closings is, "It depends." It depends on employee classification; if you have a time off policy; what your current policy says, if anything; if that policy is compliant with wage and hours laws; what your normal practice has been; and what might be in an employment agreement letter.

All employers in our area should have a clearly-written, and closely, consistently-followed snow and/or emergency closing policy. Employees need to know what to expect when the snow falls. They need to know the policy and the procedures to follow. They need to know what the impact on their pay and/or time off benefit will be. They need to know if they can work from home. And much more.

All too often employers do not have a policy, and end up handling emergency closings differently each time it snows. Lack of policy leaves employees in the dark until you have to close, only to learn at that time what will happen, often to their dismay.

Further, there are other emergencies that can result in the closing of the business for one or multiple days. I have seen policies that unintentionally leave an employer exposed to having to pay employees indefinitely in the event of a long-term closing.

So our advice from Alliant Human Resources is to have a carefully thought-out and clearly-written inclement weather and emergency closing policy so that you can avoid confusion, disappointment, and even potential legal problems.

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