Given the extremes of weather experienced across Canada, business closures due to a blizzard or a tornado are a part of life. Besides bad weather, an emergency like a city-wide outage or a wildfire may also abruptly shut down workplaces.
It is your responsibility as the employer to notify staff of business closures due to bad weather. To avoid confusion on such days and to ensure the safety of your employees, it is important that you develop an inclement weather policy for your business.
What is an inclement weather policy?
An inclement weather policy lays down the procedures your business will follow if it temporarily closes in case of bad weather or a natural disaster or emergency.
Though an inclement weather policy is not a legal requirement, it helps your business prepare for sudden work closures in the event of an emergency.
What should I include in the inclement weather policy?
We advise that your inclement weather policy cover the following:
The circumstances that can cause business closure
Your policy should list the inclement weather conditions and/or emergency events that can lead to closure of your business. It is best to follow the local government in this regard and close your workplace when government offices shut down.
Name of the person who’ll take the decision regarding the closure
Appoint one person who would be responsible for taking the final decision on closure. It could be you — the employer, or the general manager or team lead.
The method of notifying staff of the closure
Your policy should also clarify how you will inform your staff of the closure. The risk with asking staff to contact the point person or sending a mass email is that such communication may be delayed. You don’t want your staff to commute to work in dangerous weather conditions only to find the office closed.
A quicker and more convenient way would be to use an online human resource management software such as BrightHR.
On BrightHR, you can create company-wide notifications and send important messages to your entire staff at once. BrightHR can also be accessed through its smartphone app. On a bad weather day, all your employees will have to do is check their phones to know if the workplace is open or closed.
BrightHR’s secure cloud-based software also provides you with unlimited storage space for your HR documents. You can easily upload and share your inclement weather and other policies with your staff on BrightHR. Read more on the benefits of BrightHR for your small business here.
Employee pay during the closure
Generally, employers are not required to pay staff during business closures due to bad weather, if they give notice of closure ahead of time before staff arrives to work.
But if your employees are at work and you then decide to close the business for the day, you must pay them reporting wage under the applicable provincial legislation.
Reporting pay is the minimum amount of pay a worker must receive if they come to work and are sent home early, despite being available to work longer. Note that, in some provinces, employers are exempt from reporting pay if bad weather, a power failure, a fire, or a storm results in a complete stoppage of work.
Whether your staff will work from home
Make it clear in your policy if you expect you employees to work from home on such days and what that set up would be like.
Do you need help managing business closures during bad winter weather?
Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR and health and safety advice you may need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.