Snow days can be a challenge for businesses. Some companies have a ‘business as usual’ policy and expect employees to come to work even if the roads are hazardous. Others may allow employees to work from home or take the day off with pay. It’s important for businesses to have a clear policy in place so that employees know what to expect. Some factors that businesses may consider when deciding on a snow day policy include:
- The nature of the business: Some businesses, such as hospitals and emergency services, may need to remain open regardless of weather conditions.
- The safety of employees: Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are safe. If the roads are hazardous or public transportation is disrupted, it may not be safe for employees to travel to work.
- The impact on the business: If many employees are unable to come to work due to the weather, it may be necessary to close the business or reduce operations.
Though policies and laws exist to protect everyone involved – the employee and the employer – there is a risk of alienating employees and destroying morale.
For example, according to the Department of Labor, if an employer remains open but an exempt (salaried) employee chooses to stay home and not work for personal reasons such as a fear of driving on bad roads, an employer could deduct a full day from employee’s pay…BUT you do so at your own peril. Employers clearly risk negatively impacting morale.
The Fair Labor Standards Act permits employers to require exempt and nonexempt employees to use accrued leave for absences, even when employers are closed during a snowstorm. Again, this is a policy that risks upsetting your employees and hurting your company’s culture.
To avoid confusion, an employer must have clear policies in place and a pre-determined notification system for snow days. The decision to close should be made early enough so that no employee is already on the road and misses the notification.
All your organization’s policies reflect your company culture. A positive culture and environment make a significant difference in employee retention. Considering the recent storms that have impacted the WNY area, now is a great time to review your policy to determine if it is meeting the needs of your employees and your business.