In case you’ve missed the onslaught of radio, TV, print and social media messages, hurricane season is here again! Most of those messages, however, are geared towards making sure your home and family are prepared for potential storms. Planning for the workplace, however, is another story. Not only are there physical assets to consider, but your human capital as well.
The physical safety of your workers, securing the building and protecting equipment is almost always the first step. Keep in mind, however, that you may need to provide employee training for specific preparation tasks so that those designated know exactly what to do. Who are the essential personnel that you want back as soon as possible after a hurricane? Decide now what system will be in place to authorize re-entry to your facility after a storm.
Your employees will want to know the status of company operations. Ensure that contact information is current and that all employees know how you will communicate with them after a storm passes. Having a written policy in place is highly suggested.
Preparing for payroll continuity is often a challenge and plans should be made far in advance of an actual weather event. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay non-exempt staff only for hours actually worked. Therefore, an employer is not required to pay these non-exempt employees if the employer is unable to provide work due to a natural disaster. An exception to this rule is made for those employees who receive fixed salaries for fluctuating workweeks. An employer must pay these employees their full weekly salary for any week in which any work was performed.
Employers are required to pay exempt personnel a full salary if the worksite is closed due to weather or a natural disaster for less than a full work week. However, employers are permitted to require exempt employees to use allowed leave for this time.
Of course, nothing is as simple as exempt vs non-exempt when it comes to payroll during a disaster. Those essential personnel we talked about earlier? Well, if they are “on call” and remain on site so that they can deal with emergency repairs, they have to be compensation even if they do not perform any work.
After a storm employees are often eager to get back to work and may volunteer to help with the clean-up effort just to get the organization back to regular operation. Sounds ideal, but the FLSA does not permit employees to volunteer unpaid time to the employer under any but the narrowest of circumstances.
Storm preparation at your organization should not start at the threat of a storm, but rather in written policies and procedures that are well planned in advance and shared with all. Providing training to employees to ensure that everyone is prepared to act will pay off in the long term.
Do you have any written policies and procedures related to natural disasters? Share your best practices in the comments below.