Considering the recent weather events in the Southern United States, it only seems prudent to address a few considerations that may not be the first to come to mind when making business arrangements for such occurrences. For instance, what are the expectations that employees are held to in the case of a weather disaster?
Granted, we may have lucked out this summer, but we also all know how unpredictable the weather can be during our Upstate New York winters. With this in mind, as well as all of the other events that our region has seen in the past, it certainly does no harm to plan ahead--and to ask that question for ourselves. What are employees to do when the weather turns disastrous?
This question was especially pertinent for those whose homes and workplaces were in Hurricane Irma’s way. Many turned to Reddit and Twitter to find out if they would be sacrificing their jobs if they got a head start on their evacuation. The answer, from a strictly legal standpoint, may surprise you.
Shockingly, OSHA--the Occupational Safety and Health Administration--has no protections set up for workers in these circumstances. This means that an employee could be fired or otherwise penalized for not coming into work, even if their place of employment is directly in the danger zone.
Employees can also feel some ill effects if their employers are forced to close. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, an exempt employee must be paid if the weather forces the business to close for less than a week. However, the employer can then deduct that time from the employee’s vacation or sick time--and if the employee cannot make it into work due to weather conditions, that day’s salary can be deducted from their paycheck. Non-exempt employees are not required to be paid for a weather-related closure.
Admittedly, these actions are all taken in order to give the business the best chance of surviving the weather event--but there are other solutions that don’t put the employees in such a tough spot.
You need to devise a plan of action for your company to adhere to in such circumstances. A business continuity plan is something that every business should have, as they can offer an improved likelihood of your business surviving a disaster--including extremely inclement weather.
This plan should include a means of communicating with employees to alert them that the business will not be open, or that they should use the technologies that allow them to work remotely rather than risk coming in. You should also include a strategy to alert your clients and/or customers if you do elect to close your business completely, to avoid disappointing them by being unexpectedly unavailable.
In addition, your plan needs to include data backup, outlining where it is stored and how it can be retrieved. Your plan should include other key considerations as well, such as who in the chain of command is responsible for which duties, and who is in charge if management is not able to be present.
Finally, this plan also needs to address how you intend to resume business as quickly as possible, even if your location is no longer able to support it. Whether you continue a remote work strategy or figure out a temporary location to inhabit, your plan should communicate that.
There is much more that your disaster preparedness needs to address in addition to what has been covered here. For more, reach out to us at 607.433.2200.