Hurricane season is upon us, and Floridians have already encountered the first named storm of the season. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center predicts 10 to 16 named storms, of which five to nine may become hurricanes—including one to four major hurricanes. An average hurricane season sees about six hurricanes, with three becoming major. Business owners have much to consider when it comes to storm preparedness: protecting the company and it’s employees.
Click here to view FEMA’s Hurricane Ready Business Toolkit.
Storm Preparedness Tips for Business Owners:
- Have your buildings inspected, and complete maintenance to ensure they can withstand severe weather.
- Review your business continuity plan and update it as needed, including employee contact information.
- Communicate key elements of the plan with employees, including post-event and work/payroll procedures. Make sure all employees have a paper copy of the plan.
- Review emergency shutdown and start-up procedures, such as electrical systems, with appropriate personnel.
- Test both your business continuity and emergency preparedness/response plans.
When a storm is imminent, safeguard employee and client data. Update your network and back it up to a second location or cloud so you can access it remotely. Even if your employees don’t typically work from home, they may have to work from a remote location following a storm. Be sure to implement a mechanism to capture time worked because failure to do so exposes you to liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Paying employees during and after a storm can be complicated if you’re not prepared. Employers have to make a plan to compensate employees who don’t have direct deposit. That could mean mailing checks to an employee’s home or setting up a pick-up station at a safe location. In Florida, employees must be paid at least monthly; if you can’t get your employee paid in this time frame, document your extenuating circumstances carefully.
- Are only paid for time spent working.
- Are entitled to overtime for working in excess of 40 hours per week.
- May use paid-time-off (PTO) or take time off unpaid depending on policy.
- Are paid full salary if any work is performed during the work week unless the employee misses a day for personal reasons (If the office is open but the employee chooses to stay home, that’s considered a personal reason.).
- May not have deductions taken for partial day absences.
Some employers offer hazard or differential pay to essential personnel when working conditions are extreme due to emergencies or disasters. Keep in mind, even if employees “volunteer” to help with cleanup at your facility, you must pay them for the work they perform. If your company needs to lay employees off after a disaster, have the necessary unemployment information on hand for immediate distribution. Some of your employees may be members of the National Guard or volunteer responders. Job protections are in place for these employees.
Hurricane season is a good time to check on the language in your employee handbook. Make sure leave policies are clear and concise, specifically those related to emergencies. Your employees should know how to contact you or HR should they need to take time off due to injuries, health conditions or any other emergencies. Remind employees to evacuate with their insurance cards, policy numbers and contact information.
Communication with employees is key during and after a storm. Here are some ways you can connect:
- Create calling or texting trees (sometimes texts go through when calls won’t).
- Set up a toll free number with a message for employees to check regularly (include the date and time of last update).
- Set up a webpage where you can post messages for employees (public access/password protected).
- Utilize email and social media for real-time messages.
Partnering with FrankCrum grants you access to a team of HR experts. If you have questions about any HR-related issues, call 1-866-697-6576.