The time has come for long sleeves and jackets for many across the U.S. Fall has always been my favorite time of the year as the colors always seem to migrate to orange. With the change in season also comes a number of weather challenges. Some areas in the U.S. experience extremely cold and freezing temperatures. Interstates, main roads and bridges freeze over and are dangerous for traveling. The vast majority of employees are commuting on the highway daily (especially to Baton Rouge, LA).
With these weather challenges comes an opportunity for the company to decide how it wants to handle times when it is unsafe for employees to come to work. There were several times where I was driving 40 plus miles one way only to have my commute stopped by 3-4 hour traffic from closed bridges. My employer had a specific inclement weather policy which offered some support for times like these. The issue is management did not stand behind their policies like they should have. My manager called me at 8:30 and told me not to come in. It was a little too late since I left around 6:30 every morning so I could get to work on time at 8:00. Times like this frustrated me as HR should be more of an advocate for these policies when they need to be used.
Every employer should sit down and decide how often these types of situations occur and if a policy should govern the situation. If your company operates in more than one state and have locations in the North (above Mississippi and Tennessee); the company may want to implement a guideline for situations which are unpreventable. The policy should be made around the premise of protecting employees safety. The second item is to decide how to compensate those employees for the time. The law does not require an employer to compensate an employee for time not worked, therefore, the company can make it a blanket policy for all employees to either use PTO or take the time unpaid.
A policy should talk about the different situations which make it difficult for employees to get to work; however, the policy should steer clear of words like, “every” or “always.” The policy should tell employees something like this, “The inclement weather policy has been established to protect the safety of our employees. Weather is unpredictable and at times a safety hazard for our employees. If an employee cannot show up for work due to unsafe driving conditions, the employee should contact their manager/supervisor immediately to inform them of the situation. The employee will/will not be compensated for this time of inclement weather.”
It is definitely a courtesy to compensate employees for time not worked. If you have a PTO policy, you may want to incorporate stipulations into the inclement weather policy so employees know they can either take PTO or can be unpaid for the time. The policy at my old job had 24 hours of inclement weather at a time. If a city had multiple occurrences of inclement weather during the course of a year, it could end up costing the employer a lot of money. Budgetary considerations should always be planned ahead of time to decide if PTO should be used or if the employee will be paid out of an inclement weather bucket. I can’t speak for all employees, but I can say I wanted to go to work and would be upset if inclement weather prevented me from doing so.
If you’re in top management, take some time to prepare for this season by discussing inclement weather and how it affects you and your employees. Coming up with a plan ahead of time can possibly prevent issues into the future and make it easier to interpret those situations as they arise.