As Winter arrives, it's time to prepare for winter weather. Storms are an expected part of northern winters but even southern states have experienced snow and icy conditions more frequently in recent years.

It's important, then, to make sure your employees know what to do when severe weather strikes. A good policy provides a helpful road map.

When you create or review your inclement weather policy, think about:

1. Employee Communication.

Who will make the decision to close early, delay opening or close operations for the day? You may wish to designate a backup decision maker.

Consider how the decision will be communicated. Good ways are to provide a phone number and web site employees can check for information in the early morning. Other methods are an internal Facebook page, intranet, or phone tree.

2. Smooth Operations.

How will operations be shut down properly? Who is needed to do what? Identify which employees or departments, if any, must continue working. Who else needs to know?

Consider the best methods to let clients know of changes relevant to their needs (e.g. voice mail, web site, email.)

3. Safety First.

Even if you remain open, you may wish to allow employees to make their own weather-related decisions about whether to risk travel conditions based on their circumstances.

Allow employees who are set up for it to work from home or to use sick or vacation time, if available.

4. Obligations with Federal Wage and Hour Laws.

Know your pay obligations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA.)

a) The FLSA does not require that you provide sick or vacation time off benefits nor that you pay non-exempt staff for time not worked.

b) It does, however, require that exempt staff, in order to retain exempt status, be paid their regular weekly wages except in rare instances. If the employer chooses to close for a day or two, exempt staff must be paid their full weekly salary although you may deduct the time from their accrued leave bank.

c) If exempt staff run out of accrued leave or go negative, you must still pay their full weekly wages.

d) If, on the other hand, the exempt employee, rather than the employer, chooses to take a full personal day off for any reason, you do not have to pay for that day, unless your personnel policies say otherwise.

e) Be careful, however, that it must be a full personal day off in order to reduce wages; working a partial day negates that option.

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