Human resources management is tricky enough, but when your business is hit by a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or other natural disaster, it can throw personnel issues into complete chaos. In the aftermath of recent catastrophes like Harvey, Irma and other storms, it’s painfully obvious many companies are anything but ready. With a little preparation, your company can minimize the problems and help keep your staffing management from going under water.

Put an attendance policy in place. This is smart if you’re in Florida or other areas where severe storms are an annual seasonal concern. However, unexpected events like power outages, water-main breaks, large-scale fires and other occurrences can strike anywhere, causing short- and long-term closures. Ensure your company’s policy addresses how staff should communicate with management in the event of a disaster. Also, establish whether employees can (or would be expected to) work from home, take paid time off, or take a day off without pay. It’s a good idea to have a no-show policy, too. If you’d like to review a sample inclement weather guidance policy, contact us to learn how to subscribe to our HR Support Center Policy Library.

Be flexible. There are countless variables to wrangle when a storm strikes. Along with the closure of their workplace, employees likely will have to deal with school and childcare disruptions, impassible roads, and other factors complicating their path to your office. You may choose to spell out management’s willingness to allow for personal challenges in your attendance policy, or leave the openness to allowances unspoken. Be aware, though, that post-storm policy seen as too strict or unyielding can create a public-relations snafu, as Pizza Hut discovered when one franchise brought the hammer down ahead of Hurricane Irma.

Don’t forget about payroll. In addition to attendance policy, your office should have compensation policies and plans in place. For example, if your office is closed, you must pay exempt employees must be paid for missed time, whether they miss full or half days. However, you can require them to use vacation or PTO, as long as that’s your regular policy.  without reduction in salary. But, if your office is open and exempt employees encounter personal reasons barring them from making it in, FLSA holds that this can be considered a “personal reason,” so you can deduct from their salary if they miss a whole day with no work done. Keep in mind, though, that if they do any work (including making a call to a client, or checking work email), they must be paid for the day.

Any questions? Please reach out to us—we’d love to help.