How to Create an Inclement Weather Policy: A Guide

  • HR Policies
Working during inclement weather
Kiljon Shukullari

Kiljon Shukullari, HR Advisory Manager

(Last updated )

In Canada, where diverse weather conditions can disrupt everyday lives, employers should always have a well-defined inclement weather policy to prepare for potential business closure. Given the extremes of weather experienced across the country, ranging from blizzards to tornados and rain storms, the policy is a proactive and responsible approach to address the challenges posed by these events. 

Besides bad weather, other emergencies including wildfires, floods, or city-wide power outages can also abruptly shut down a business. For all of these scenarios, employers can benefit from an emergency response plan for maintaining business continuity and administering employee pay.

What is inclement weather?

Inclement weather means any abnormal and severe climatic condition that can cause disruptions to normal life and routine. These can include heavy snowfall, hurricanes, high wind, tornados, extreme heat waves or cold snaps. Severe weather can also create situations that are dangerous and unsafe for a business to operate, such as icy roads, mudslides, flash floods, power outages, and wildfires.

What is an inclement weather policy?

An inclement weather policy is a set of guidelines and procedures that businesses put in place to manage and respond to challenges stemming from adverse weather conditions, natural disasters, or emergencies. Specifically, how to deal with temporary business closure. This policy is designed to provide clear expectations and protocols for employees to follow during such circumstances.

A proper inclement weather policy addresses the following:

Employee safety and well-being

The primary concern during severe weather events is the safety and well-being of employees. An inclement weather policy establishes guidelines for business closures, allowing employees to avoid hazardous travel and work conditions. 

Minimizing disruption

An inclement weather policy minimizes disruptions to business operations by providing a structured approach to handling closures. This includes addressing potential impacts on productivity, service delivery, and transactions. 

Operational continuity

The policy outlines measures for operational continuity. This may involve arrangements for remote work, alternative work hours, or specific instructions for critical staff to continue essential operations.

Expectations for the staff

An inclement weather policy sets clear instructions for employees during business closures. It provides a framework for clear and consistent communication, so employees know what to anticipate regarding pay, work arrangements, and any expectations for making up lost time.

Emergency preparedness

No matter the circumstances, businesses must have a policy for dealing with emergencies. By having an inclement weather policy, employers can plan and respond effectively to unexpected events, implement preemptive measures, and know when and how to announce business closures.

Legal compliance

Having a proper policy in place ensures that the company is compliant with employment laws. Under provincial legislation, employers have an obligation to protect employees’ health and safety, prevent hazards in the workplace, and meet legal requirements around pay during business closures.

Inclement weather policy example

Here is an example of some of the key components you should include in your inclement weather policy:

Circumstances causing business closure 

Start with a clear statement that explains the circumstances under which the business might close due to inclement weather. This could include severe weather events, public transportation closures, power outages, government advisories, or unsafe air or road conditions.

Communication protocols

List a clear communication plan to inform employees of business closures or changes in operations. You can appoint one person to make the final decision on closure. It could be you — the employer – or the general manager or team lead. To prevent communication delays caused by inclement weather conditions, you can use an HR software to manage company-wide mass notifications. 

In your inclement weather policy, specify the channels through which employees will receive notifications on business closure. These can include:

  • Email.
  • Phone call.
  • SMS text.
  • HR software.
  • Social apps or channels.
  • Company website.
  • Internal platforms and intranets. 

Staff pay during closure

Clarify the company's policy on employee compensation during a business closure. This could involve paid time off, using vacation days, or unpaid leave. Generally, employers are not required to pay staff during business closures if they give notice ahead of time before staff begins work. 

However, depending on the province your business is in, you might have to pay employees reporting pay if they’re already at work before you decide to shut down operations.

Employee safety measures

Provide guidelines on how employees should prioritize their safety during inclement weather. This may include advice on commuting, staying informed, and taking necessary precautions. You should encourage employees to familiarize themselves with the business’s emergency preparedness plan. This includes understanding evacuation procedures and safety protocols. 

Provincial Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (OHS) require employers to provide mandatory health and safety training to employees. Some of these include how to respond to emergencies caused by weather-related hazards.

Alternative work arrangements

Outline procedures for alternative work arrangements, such as flexible schedules, staggered shifts, or remote work. If the job can be done remotely, then you should clearly outline your expectations for completing tasks offsite. This includes maintaining regular communication with the team, rules around working hours, and providing staff with the necessary equipment for carrying out their tasks.

Return-to-work protocols

Establish procedures for employees returning to work after a weather-related closure. This could include flexibility in arrival times or alternative commuting arrangements. You should create contingencies for when employees continue to face challenges returning to work due to severe weather conditions. In those cases, you can consider prolonging remote work or giving alternative shift schedules or responsibilities.

How to announce business closure

When announcing business closures during inclement weather, employers have a responsibility to make sure the communication is delivered to employees in a clear and timely manner. Here are a few things to keep in mind when announcing business closure:

Use clear language

Use simple and clear language in your communication. Avoid jargon and ensure that the message is easily understandable by all employees, so there’s no confusion or ambiguity about your decision to stop business operations.

Communication methods

Use multiple communication channels to reach employees. This can include emails, phone calls, text messages, social channels, and posting announcements on the company's website or internal communication platform.

Specify closure details

Clearly state the details of the closure, including the duration (if possible) and whether it's a full or partial closure. Specify if there are any expectations regarding remote work or other alternative work arrangements.

Emergency contacts

Provide emergency contact information for employees to reach out if they have questions or concerns. Ensure that someone from the management or HR team is available to respond to questions or issues promptly.

Collaborate with managers and supervisors

Let managers and supervisors know ahead of time about the closure so they can communicate the decision to their teams. This approach ensures the message gets across to everyone in the business and that the entire staff is on the same page about the closure.

Consider time zones

If your organization operates in multiple time zones, consider the time zone differences when communicating closure. List the closure time in the local time of the affected office or location, so other parts of the business can continue to operate. 

Follow up with employees

Follow up with employees after the closure to provide updates on when operations are expected to resume. This helps in managing expectations and keeps employees informed.

Do you need help creating an inclement weather policy and managing business closures?

Our HR experts can create workplace policies, health and safety procedures, and safe work practices tailored to your specific business needs. We’ll help you deal with business disruptions during inclement weather, calculate correct employee work hours, and leave entitlements. Call today at 1(833) 247-3652 to find out more.

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