This week winter officially arrived in Minnesota with the first substantial snowfall of the season. By the time the snow finished on Wednesday night, the northwest metro received between 6-8 inches, and areas in northern Minnesota over 2 feet. This made for a messy and slow commute to and from work on Wednesday, as well as Thursday morning when crews were still out clearing the roads. I’m sure many employees were absent from work or delayed due to the weather itself or the accidents it caused.
It made me wonder, how many employers have inclement weather policies? What are employees supposed to do if they can’t make it in or will be late due to the weather? Most employers have vacation and sick leave policies with requirements on how to request that time off. But, how does it work in an inclement weather situation? In my discussions with some local business owners, I found very few had inclement weather policies. The Department of Labor put out a study in 2012 analyzing 33 years of data involving work absences due to bad weather and found January and February generally had the highest amount of work absences dues to weather.
As the season of inclement and unpredictable weather is here, now, is the perfect time to create an inclement weather policy. It should outline for employees what type of leave time may be used in the circumstance of either tardiness or absence due to bad weather. For example, employees may be allowed to use vacation time, compensatory time, or the option to flex their schedule (with supervisory approval). If an employee doesn’t have any of these paid leave options available, unpaid time will be used, unless of course the employee is exempt under the FLSA.
When considering an inclement weather policy, it may also be a good time to evaluate under what circumstances a business may want to be proactive and tell its employees to stay home as the business is going to be closed due to the weather. By outlining the options available in a policy, the employees and supervisors will know what to do the next time bad weather causes tardiness or work absences. The weather this week made me thankful to be my own boss with the ability to set my own schedule. I went in late to the office on Wednesday and left early with the hope to avoid some traffic (my commute however was still twice as long as normal), but at least I didn’t get in an accident.