Unfortunately weather disasters happen sometimes too often. Having just lived through Hurricane Harvey, I want to share my Top 10 List of employer hurricane related advice.
1. Be prepared! As a lifetime girl scout this has always been my motto. Ensure your team knows their responsibilities before, during and after the disaster. All your team will need to do is execute.
2. Create a formal Crisis Management Plan, communicate and test it. Many organizations create a plan and it sits on a shelf or saved electronically collecting dust. Annually employers should test it out. In prepping for Harvey a member of our HR team had a great idea of creating a mass text for communicating during the storm.
3. In returning to work assess the safety of the workplace. Safety should always be a priority. A damaged workplace may have unknown hazards.
4. Allow remote work if possible. Don’t forget to have systems in place to track hours for recordkeeping requirements.
5. Decide as a company on how to compensate exempt and non-exempt employees for lost time worked. Know your exemption laws under FLSA. Suspend notification time for taking paid time off as many companies may require a two-week notice to approve PTO. Be creative in finding ways for employees to make up lost time if possible.
6. Have a list ready on who to call for property damage. Know insurers and policy numbers.
7. Communicate with benefits plan providers to let them know the potential impact on your employees. Attempt communicating in methods available with employees who have not returned to work. After a reasonable period of time, terminate employment and handle COBRA obligations.
8. Understand the requirements of FMLA as it might relate to disasters. Employees may need time off to take care of health of loved ones or themselves.
9. Be aware of job protection of the National Guard members or volunteer responders called up for duty by the governor or the president. State and federal laws may have special requirements to support them.
10. Since we spend a majority of our awake hours during the week at work, employees will be discussing what they just lived through. It is important to be professional but also understand they may need emotional support. They may be affected by injuries, deaths, or significant property damage. It is important to adapt to the needs of your employees as much as possible.