If your office is in Texas or the southwest, you probably don’t need to enact a severe weather policy very often. But let it be known on Feb. 15, 2021, a temperature of -2 degrees was recorded at DFW Airport. Now that’s cold.

With freezing temperatures like that, combined with 5-7 inches of snow, getting across town can be dangerous. What can you as an employer do to keep your employees safe and your organization functioning when dangerously bad weather hits? The first step is to have a plan.

A severe weather policy is an important component of your business’s overall emergency preparedness and disaster recovery plan.

It’s not uncommon for state departments of transportation to advise against travel due to severe weather. Schools have decades of experience in communicating closures to keep staff and students out of harm’s way. They’ve established functional plans on who makes the decision to close and how to notify people.

It’s essential for employers to be prepared for a disruption to normal business operations because of severe weather. Of course, not everyone can shut down even if the temperature is zero degrees. Hospitals always need to be staffed 24 hours a day.

Before the ice and snow accumulate, develop a snow day policy.

Some items to consider for your inclement weather policy:

• How will you communicate a closure to employees — phone call, text or email?
• Plan to monitor the weather forecast, as well as any conditions that will trigger a closure (snowfall, temperature, electrical outage, etc.).
• Convey instructions that employees are not to drive in unsafe conditions.
• Provide clear expectations about what happens in the event of closure, such as whether employees should work from home.
• Consider compensation during severe weather, keeping in mind local, state and federal laws.
• How will you notify customers, clients or vendors of a closure?
• Have plans in the event of a mid-day closure when employees are expected to leave immediately.

When developing your plan, consider specific criteria about the amount of snowfall, road conditions and temperatures that will enact a closure. Blizzards aren’t the only weather situation that may require closing. Freezing temperatures and wind chills as low as -60 degrees prompted Minnesota to close schools statewide in 2014.

Rely on an expert like the National Weather Service for weather conditions and reference your state’s department of transportation for road conditions. You may look to local school districts as a guide.

Employee Expectations
If you’ve set up the ability for employees to work remotely, do you still expect employees to work if your office is closed due to weather? What if the company does not close, but an employee would prefer to avoid traveling? Remote work options could allow them to avoid taking a personal day.

As with other parts of your snow day plan, communicate clear expectations with your employees if you expect them to work remotely if they cannot make it into the office. Prepare your IT infrastructure for a spike in activity if more employees than normal try to access the remote system.

It’s important to be proactive and build a strong safety culture. An inclement weather policy can formalize your stance on employee safety during winter conditions. Foster a workplace culture where employees know you care about their health and safety and wouldn’t punish them for prioritizing their safety over work.

Encourage employees to rearrange their schedules in advance to avoid driving during the worst of weather conditions. A good snow day strategy can keep your organization functioning while also keeping your employees safe.

The information and opinions expressed are for educational purposes only and are based on current practice, industry related knowledge and business expertise. The information provided shall not be construed as legal advice, express or implied.