Posted on / Updated on / in Blog & Employee Handbook & HR Policies /

Lately, we’ve been getting A LOT of requests saying “I need help creating a Snow Day Policy,” and for good reason. We’ve had quite a bit of snow in the Midwest this year.

Creating a Snow Day Policy can be a tricky issue in the workplace, because while you want to keep your employees safe, there is also work that needs to get done. This article outlines what to think about when creating a bad weather policy for your organization.

It happens all too often. Most of the time it’s about 5:30 in the morning, the midwest of the United States is covered in a beautiful, but dangerous blanket of snow …and the school cancellations start rolling in.

If you’re a business owner, you know there will be a number of people who will “call in” because there’s trouble with gaining childcare due or due to the dangerous driving conditions. If you’re an employee, you’re stressed out because schools are closed, most likely your place of work is not, and you have nowhere to take your children. Not to mention the fact that you may not own an SUV.

First Decide What Type of Business You Run

So, what’s an employer to do when the snow rolls in? Well first you have to decide what type of business you have before you create your snow day policy.

Ask yourself this question.

Is it absolutely necessary that your employees be at the place of business to adequately complete the day’s work? If you’re running a business like a hospital, construction company, or manufacturing facility where employees have to have interaction with customers, equipment, and products in order to do their jobs, the answer is obviously yes. You’ll want to make arrangements that allow your employees the ability to come to work without too much inconvenience.

For example, it would be quite helpful for your employees to not have to worry about childcare. It may not necessarily need to be a paid babysitter, but the employer could survey employee needs, and provide some form of assistance ranging from a designated room for kids for the day with videos, games, etc. to having an designated person who is “on call” to help out in these challenging situations.

You may also want to be flexible with your employees that are required to be in the office by letting them know that if they are a few minutes late that you’re willing to look the other way given the extreme circumstances.

What About Working From Home?

On the other side of that coin, if your business is the type of operation that employees don’t necessarily have to be in the workplace to do their jobs adequately, such as an office environment where an entire day of work can be accomplished using a laptop with an internet connection and a telephone, it may be best to make alternative arrangements.

This can often be seen as a huge benefit by many employees.

Many people these days have a more elaborate home office setup than they do at work. It is very simple for your office staff to set up a workstation where they can establish a remote connection to their workplace in order to access all of their workplace files as well as their email account. This can be setup through a secured VLAN or using simple web-based services such as GoToMyPC or LogMeIn. Phone forwarding is also a key in this situation.

If this is doable, have your IT department design instructions for your workers and ask the IT department to assist when necessary.

You may also have a workplace that is somewhat divided where some staff members must be at work, and others must not. In these situations be sure that your policy is fair to everyone and that your workers understand why things are they way they are.

You Must Effectively Communicate Your Snow Day Policy

Now that you’ve decided what category your organization is in, it is essential that you create the expectation for your staff. If they absolutely MUST show up, then be specific about it in your Snow Day Policy. Make sure this appears in your employee handbook.

If there is some opportunity to be flexible, even if it is for certain classifications of your staff, then you may choose that route. Whatever you decide for your policy, writing and communicating it to your staff is most critical.

How Does This Work With Allocated Time Off?

That’s up to you. If you choose to let your employees work from home without time off, then that’s just fine. If you choose to let them take a day off when snow rolls in, that’s also fine.

Whatever the case may be make sure to be clear about it in the development of your policy. Outline clearly when PTO (paid time off), unpaid time off, or a vacation day must be used, under what circumstances that it is required, and any flexible options that you may choose to make available to your staff.

Remember, safety is a key factor in deciding what your Snow Day Policy will be.

We’re in a day and age where flexibility is more important to employees than virtually anything else when it comes to employer benefits. Scan your workforce, identify what your business needs versus those of your staff in “emergency” situations, and then prepare your policy so everyone is clear on the program.

Groundhog’s Day might be coming up, but whether Phil sees his shadow or not, we all know we still have at least 6 more weeks of Winter left. If you don’t have your organization’s Snow Day Policy in order, it’s time to think about doing so.

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about the author: Amy Letke

Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success.