It’s officially winter and, while that does mean the days will start getting longer and the holidays are nearly upon us, it also means that harsh weather conditions are just around the corner. Without knowing where or when the weather could turn ugly, creating an inclement weather preparedness plan could be the single most important thing you do for your practice this winter.
Be prepared before the inclement weather starts.
Review emergency closing policies, including who is responsible for making the decision to close, how patients will be notified, how employees will be notified and how pay issues will be handled.
Don’t have an inclement weather policy? You’re not alone. Nearly 44 percent of U.S. small businesses do not have a business continuity plan, according to a survey by Travelers Insurance. By establishing a written protocol, you’ll set clear expectations for what employees should do in the case of bad weather. Be sure to regularly remind employees of the policy, making it an annual announcement in the fall.
Clear communication is crucial – for both patients and employees.
What happens if a patient shows up for an appointment or an employee reports for work only to find that the office is closed? The chances are both will leave with a bitter taste in their mouths. To avoid leaving your patients and employees out in the cold, be sure to outline a strategy for communicating office closures in case of bad weather.
Inclement weather may leave you with a rescheduling nightmare, whether you’ve closed the office or not. Between patient cancelations and understaffing, you’ll rely on having an organized communication system in place. Send out an email, update your website, record a voicemail message on your business’s phone line, and coordinate phone calls to employees and patients.
Know when to pay and when not to pay.
Pay practices for inclement weather must comply with federal, state and local rules and depend on the classification of the employee.
In general, an exempt employee should earn a full day’s pay if he works any part of the day, such as in the case of an early closure. Exempt employees must also be paid their regular salary if the office is closed but they are “ready, willing and able” to come to work, according to the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. However, if the office is open and the employee is not able to make it in – due to road conditions, for example – you are not required to pay the employee for that absence.
Non-exempt employees are typically not paid for a snow day, unless they use PTO, as long as they are notified in advance. A few states have laws that require employees to be paid a certain number of hours for the day, even if the office closes early or if the employee is on his way when you decide to close.
Any employees who complete work from home are entitled to pay, whether it’s a full day’s pay for exempt employees or based on the hours worked for non-exempt employees.
Check with your business advisor to find out which laws you may be mandated to follow in the case of an inclement weather closure.