Snow Days For a Small Business?

When should small business owners give snow days to employees?

Winter is here, and with that comes the weather. What are the rules for small businesses when the roads are dangerous? Are you required to close the office?

The answer is: it depends. Take some time to learn the rules, regulations, and requirements to keep employees safe during the winter months.

Calling it a Day

There are no rules regulating office closure for private businesses or snow days for small business. In most cases, even a government-declared State of Emergency does not mandate administrative policies for individual businesses or employee travel.

That being said, your number-one priority should be the health and safety of your greatest assets: your employees. Requiring employees to report to the office on days with snowy, icy roads hurts office morale to say the least. Calling for an in-office workday when schools are closed due to inclement weather can create hardship for working parents. As a business owner, this is a difficult line to walk. Use your judgement and make sure no one is putting themselves in danger.

Knowing When to Pay

According to the Labor Law Center, state laws vary, but most states abide by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA:

  • Hourly (non-exempt) employees need to be paid for hours worked. If you close your business for a day, requiring hourly employees to stay home, you are not required to pay those employees for that day.

New York also has Call-Back/Report-In pay laws that require employers to pay hourly employees a minimum number of hours when they work less than their scheduled shift. If a non-exempt employee reports to work in New York state, they must be paid for the full shift or four hours of work (whichever is less), even if they’re sent home early because of bad weather.

  • Salaried (exempt) employees who are willing and able to work (and have worked at least a few minutes during the payroll week) must be paid their salary each day the office is closed due to inclement weather. The same holds true for exempt employee who stays home on a snow day, but does an hour or two of work from home.

Making a Plan

It’s a good idea to develop an office policy about how your company will handle employee work hours and payroll in the event of inclement weather or other emergencies. The policy, a written copy of which should be provided to all current and incoming employees, should include:

  • How your office defines an inclement weather day or emergency
  • How and when employees will be contacted about office closures (for both full-day and partial-day closures)
  • How/if employees will be paid on days they are not in the office due to inclement weather

You might also address possible alternatives to working in the office on inclement weather days. Consider allowing employees to work from home or take a personal/ vacation day when your office is open but they can’t make it in due to weather.

Whatever you decide, be sure to balance your business needs with your employees’ needs. Have questions about FLSA or other labor laws in New York state? Visit the New York State Department of Labor website or contact your corporate attorney.

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