18 Sep Should we follow our no-show policy during a natural disaster?
Question: We have employees that are unable to work due to a natural disaster. Some haven’t contacted us at all and we’re wondering if we should follow our three-day no-show termination policy. We’re also wondering about pay– should we use their sick or vacation time or just have these days be unpaid?
Answer: Great questions. As to the first, even if you have a no-show termination policy you usually follow, it is recommended you demonstrate as much flexibility as you can during a natural disaster. Hopefully your attendance policy allows for management discretion; even if it doesn’t say that explicitly, this is certainly a unique enough situation you should be comfortable making some exceptions to the rule. Hurricanes can result in power outages, gas shortages, school and childcare closings, and massive flooding. When deciding how to respond, consider employee morale and the sensitivity of the larger community.
Many companies have an inclement weather or emergency closure policy for these sorts of situations. These policies typically address communication in the event of outages, attendance during mandatory evacuations, and options for employees. You might, for example, allow employees to work from home, take a PTO or vacation day, or take a day off without pay. If you don’t have a policy like this in place, now might be the time to implement one.
Please note if your office is closed, exempt employees must be paid for missed time without reduction in salary. This holds true whether they miss full or partial days. With that said, you may require exempt employees to use accrued vacation or PTO for the day as long as that is your regular practice when the office closes. Exempt employees without sufficient vacation to cover the absence must be provided with their regular salary during the closure.
If the office is open, however, and exempt employees are unable to make it in because of their individual circumstances, this counts as a “personal reason” under the FLSA. In this case, you may make a deduction from their salary if they miss a full day and do no work at all. While a single call in to tell you they can’t make it in will not be considered work, if they check their work e-mail, or make so much as a singular call to a client or colleague, they must be paid for the day.
Original content by the HR Support Center. This information is provided with the understanding that Payroll Partners is not rendering legal, human resources, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from a lawyer, HR consultant or other professional.