Inclement Weather: What Employers Need to Know

by | 16 Jan, 2018

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We are in the midst of the winter months, which for many employers means increased concern surrounding inclement weather and how it impacts the workplace. Employers walk a tough tightrope between ensuring that employees are safe and making certain that the business continues to run smoothly. In this post, we will share what you need to know to get through the long winter safely and successfully.

Compensating Employees During Inclement Weather

Pay obligations to employees during inclement weather scenarios are dependent upon the employee’s Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) classification. Employees are either exempt or nonexempt.

    • For exempt employees: If the employee works any portion of the week, he or she must be paid their full, normal salary. This means that if an exempt employee works Monday through Thursday, but the employer closes the office on Friday due to a blizzard, that employee is still entitled to his or her normal salary despite not working on Friday. This is because this is considered an absence caused by the employer. If, however, the employer does not close the office but the employee still chooses not to come into work, the employee is required to make use of their vacation time, paid time off (PTO), or sick days.
  • For nonexempt/hourly employees: Employers are only required to pay these employees for the hours that they have worked. This means that if an employer closes for business for a day due to inclement weather, they are not required to pay employees that were scheduled to work that day. That being said, there are varying laws from state to state called “report-in” or “call-in” pay laws that require employers to pay employees if they show up to work as scheduled, but are then sent home earlier than scheduled for some reason, such as the business closing for the day due to inclement weather. Employers should look up what specific state laws pertain to them.
Developing an Inclement Weather Policy

Knowing what pay obligations exist for different employees is only one piece of the puzzle in properly managing the workforce in the instance of inclement weather. With most workplace concerns, it is always best to take proactive measures to avoid complications and minimize confusion amongst employees. The best way to do this is to develop an inclement weather policy that clearly lays out several pieces of information, including:

    • What will constitute an inclement weather day
    • How work responsibilities will be covered in the instance of a closing
    • How employees will be contacted
  • Guidelines for how employees will be paid given various inclement weather scenarios

After it is thoughtfully developed, the Inclement Weather Policy should be effectively communicated. This means including it in the employee handbook, circulating it to employees, and requiring that they sign off on it to confirm that they understand the guidelines laid out within it.

Of course, each employer should take some time to consider how to tailor their inclement weather policy so it aligns with the unique needs of their workplace. For example, the industry that the employer is in can impact how they handle work getting done in the instance of inclement weather. A manufacturing business will not be able to run any operations if the business is closed for the day, but a digital marketing agency could probably run the business as usual with employees working from home.

In conclusion, the winter can be a challenging time for employers, as they must simultaneously ensure the safety of all employees, minimize legal risk, and keep the business running smoothly. A lack of awareness or strategy surrounding how to proceed in the event of inclement weather only heightens the challenge. Thus, employers should take proactive steps now to understand how they should proceed in the event of inclement weather, and to develop and inclement weather policy that is effectively communicated to all employees.

For a quick recap, check out this infographic:

Human Resources PEO

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Tom DiSilva
Tom DiSilva has been providing professional human resource services for over 30 years. As the CEO of Navigate PEO, he actively partners with organizations of all sizes in the Greater New England area and across the country to help their businesses grow. He has expertise in HR and Labor Management, offering guidance and support for key areas of business such as negotiations, operations management, employee coaching, and employee benefits design. He is an active member of The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), The National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), Professional Association of Co-Employers (PACE), and The American Payroll Association (APA). He is deeply committed to giving back to the community both personally and through Navigate Cares, which provides support for several nonprofit organizations such as the USO, The Boys & Girls Club, and the 3Point Foundation.

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Disclaimer: this article does not represent expert advice and is provided for informational purposes. Please get in touch if you would like expert HR advice.