How to Address a Staff Absence Due to Weather

Entrepreneurs, HR managers, and executives are learning how to deal with employee absences due to inclement weather. We bring you the latest trends in staff absences due to weather, how to address it, as well as some ways our leave management software can help.

When I was 15 years old, I got my first job at McDonald’s.

It was during my time at McDonald’s that we had one of the worst ice storms in Kentucky’s history.

If you don’t know much about Kentucky, well, you should know that we don’t handle ice, snow, or the cold like our Northern counterparts.

Let me make it clear to you, folks. That McDonald’s stayed open for the entire week. After nearly totaling my car more than once, I ended up calling off work for four days in a row, and, no, my boss was not pleased.

..and, no, my boss was not pleased…

I never expected to be paid either! That’s ridiculous, right? The policy regarding minimum wage workers and overtime requirements is pretty straightforward: pay them for the time they work.

The law isn’t so simple when you’re dealing with employees on a salary. A staff absence due to weather can cause all sorts of delays at work, especially if you’re an entrepreneur, HR manager, or executive.

It also raises the issue of how the time off should be dealt with when it comes to tracking attendance and calculating pay.

When productivity is paramount to company success, it should come as no surprise that many businesses try to reduce their losses associated with staff absences due to weather.

“I never expected to be paid either! That’s ridiculous, right?”

It makes perfect sense that the decision to close down the office is a difficult one. The decision to keep your offices open or to close them down goes far beyond the concern of becoming the least-liked guy or gal at work.

To complicate things even further, closing down your operations for severe weather doesn’t always mean that your employees will show up to work.

Any time harsh weather conditions come along, they bring a massive amount of human resource problems for small and large businesses.

And with winter around the corner, everyone should be preparing for the worst.

That’s why I’m going to bring you the latest trends in employee absences due to weather, how to address it on your own as well as with our leave management software.

Are You Obligated to Pay for a Staff Absence Due to Weather?

Perhaps, even more pressing for many businesses, is the effects of harsh weather conditions on their HR departments.

Coming out of severe weather conditions can make it seem as if your HR department just experienced a natural disaster itself.

Much of the reason for all of the management confusion during weather-related absences comes from the issue of pay.

An average of 800 employees (4.8%) were unable to make it to work due to severe weather in February 2010

Staff absences due to weather can quickly contribute to a significant portion of your business’s losses.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an average of 800 employees (4.8%) were unable to make it to work due to severe weather in February 2010.

Those numbers aren’t so bad considering that an average of 1,600 (10.1%) employees took off work for weather-related reasons during the “Blizzard of ’96.”

Not only does it disrupt productivity, but you may also have to pay for your employees’ time off

The major question for HR managers, entrepreneurs, and executives in handling inclement weather conditions is what to pay their employees if anything at all.

In February 2010, 48.2% of nonagricultural and salary workers with weather-related absences were paid.

Although there was an average of 950 staff absences due to weather in September 1999, only 4.3% of these employees were paid.

The data also concludes that most weather-related work absences are due to weather winter in January, February, and December.

Most weather-related work absences are due to weather winter in January

So why are some companies willing to pay for staff absences due to inclement weather while others aren’t?

For the most part, pay is dependent on company policies. Furthermore, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not force companies to pay non-exempt workers for time they haven’t worked.

The law extends to staff absences due to weather amongst other situations.

It’s a little bit different for exempt employees. If your employees are on a salary, then the law requires you to pay their full salary if the worksite is shut down or unable to reopen.

However, many businesses will require their employees to use their allowed leave, such as vacation or sick time, for absenteeism due to weather.

Let’s say an exempt employee chooses to stay home but you haven’t closed down your offices.

In this case, the employer can opt to put the employee on leave without pay or make the employee use vacation time for the duration of their absence.

If your employee isn’t absent for an entire day, then you can’t make any salary deductions. You can also choose to allow your salaried employees to make the lost time up.

Why Would Anyone Pay for a Staff Absence Due to Weather? 

If, legally, companies aren’t forced to pay for staff absences due to weather, then why do some companies choose to do so anyway?

Businesses that decide to pay employees for time they haven’t worked, specifically for absenteeism due to inclement weather, go above and beyond their legal obligations.

They establish what’s called an inclement weather policy to decide the specific factors that an HR executive, business owner, or manager will consider in their decision to stay open or close down.

These policies also decide how to treat nonexempt employees during a staff absence due to weather.

If you want this guy’s opinion, companies that pay their employees for absences due to weather are doing their part to maintain an efficient HR department.

How to Address a Staff Absence Due to Weather

Addressing a staff absence due to weather can be a difficult task to undertake no matter how experienced your HR management team may be.

Every situation is different, and climatic conditions can range from mild to severe.

While your local meteorologist will have the most informative opinion on what makes weather conditions life threatening, ultimately, it’s your job to make the call and have an action plan for leave management.

I cannot stress how important it is for HR management to make a fair judgment on weather conditions.

The last thing you want in your office is a bunch of disgruntled employees.

If your staff find the circumstances in which they were expected to arrive at work, then it could negatively affect your productivity.

Eric Athey, the co-chair of the Labor and Employment Group in Lancaster, Pennsylvania says,

“Inclement weather is one of those issues that engenders some strong feelings…if the employee is expected to come in when things are dangerous that could sour the relationship.”

Since your staff are your number one priority in a severe weather situation, it’s important to have a serious plan to communicate with employees and customers.

1. Go to your employee handbook

In a survey by the Travelers Insurance, 44% of all U.S. small businesses do not have a business continuity plan.

That statistic may come as a surprise, but ask yourself, do you consider risk management a top priority in your organization?

Risk management is all about clearing up any uncertainties that could be disastrous for business in an already dangerous situation.

44% of all U.S. small businesses do not have a business continuity plan

To state the obvious—watch your weather report carefully for the several hours leading up to operating hours. You’ll also want to check minor and major roads.

Ask yourself how many of your employees commute long distances to work. If most of your employees drive long distances to get to work, then pay close attention to the conditions of the major roads.

2. Know the laws

If you have nonexempt employees, then employee payment is much more straightforward, but if most of your staff are on salaries you’ll have to be careful about your company’s policies.

For exempt employees you need to know three ground rules (Always check to see if your risk management plan adheres to local and state laws!):

  • If your office closes down mid-day, then you must pay your staff for an entire day’s work;
  • If you (the employer) chooses to close down for the day, then you must pay your employees;
  • If you decide to keep the office open, and the worker does not show up for work, despite the weather conditions, then you have no legal obligation to pay the employee.

4. Make your policy

Making your policy regarding staff pay for absenteeism due to weather-related reasons is of particular importance for nonexempt employees.

In a survey of over 400 member-companies of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, most businesses pay staff an hourly wage for the hours worked.

If most of your team consists of exempt employees, then you may want to consider the overall losses of paying staff for absences due to weather-related reasons in all of the scenarios that apply to your business.

Whatever it is you decide to do, make sure to assess the various ways your decisions could impact your employee relations.

The last thing you want is a bunch of people quitting on you, sending your HR department into a downward spiral.

4. Set-up your communication channels

You need a way to inform your employees about closures due to weather. The popular choices tend to be phone trees and mass emails.

Pick a solution that is appropriate for your organization’s size.

To make sure your employees are aware of your decision regarding the matter, you can also use social media websites like Twitter to cover one more base.

Social media is also an effective way to inform customers of your decision to stay open or to close down for the day.

5. Take note of any liabilities

Assessing your business’s liabilities is probably one of the more complex tasks to undertake.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 1.2 million cases of nonfatal occupational injury and illness required staff to take sick days.

If you upset your employees, then they may sue your business if they have reason to believe your decision to remain open was in a bad judgment.

Be sure to check our organization’s insurance policy to address these matters appropriately.

How HR Management Leave Software Can Help

On that note, here are five ways that our HR leave management software can help you address staff absences due to weather:

  1. Employees can request time off on the go or at home using their smartphone;
  1. Access to the history of time requests, accruals and vacation limits for specific employees;
  1. Set up an alert system to send employees direct e-notifications about business closures due to inclement weather;
  1. Create and manage time-off policies such as “Work-From-Home” and “Inclement Weather” with allowances;
  2. Calculate the Bradford Factor.

Along with a fantastic management team, CakeHR’s HR management leave software gives you everything your HR department needs to address staff absences due to weather, plus some added features to make things efficient and help reduce your losses.

You probably already know what The Bradford Factor is, but here’s a short explanation just in case you forgot:

“The Bradford Factor is a system used to calculate a score for each employee’s absence in a year. If an employee’s score is high, then their absence is negatively impacting your company’s productivity.”

Here’s the Bradford Factor formula for us math nerds:

Bradford Factor (B) = Number of Occasions Sick (S) x Number of Occasions Sick (S) x Total Number of Days Absent (D)


B = S2 x D

The Bradford Factor can obviously be extremely helpful for your company because it allows you to identify problematic employees with poor attendance and investigate the situation further.

In other words, it’ll keep you in the “know” and let you set company standards to incorporate in your employee benefits, rewards programs and paid time off, for example.

And there you have it, folks! An informative piece on staff absences due to weather.

Seriously, though, cover your bases, all four (or is it five?), to prepare for the harsh weather in your area.


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"Self-loathing cynical angry person needs warmer weather"