By Emily Suess
Do you wonder if your business should take a snow day when the weather gets bad? The answer might be more complicated than you think. For small businesses that rely on keeping the doors open to keep accounts in the black, there’s a lot more to consider than whether or not you feel like braving the elements.
Who Gets Paid?
For small businesses with employees, declaring a day a snow day doesn’t necessarily mean you can save money on wages. In fact, you may be required to pay your staff for those lost hours.
According to the Department of Labor, businesses are expected to pay their hourly workers for time lost in the event a business is closed due to weather. Salaried (exempt) employees, on the other hand, can be required to use paid time off for a snow day. If you keep the business open but an employee stays home due to adverse weather conditions, that employee is not entitled to pay because work is still available.
Of course, you may also be able to offer flexible work options for your employees that include working remotely and the chance to make up missed hours.
What are the Conditions?
Whether or not you decide to close will have a lot to do with the safety of your employees. In areas ill-equipped to deal with snow, a few inches can make driving conditions treacherous.
If you’re wondering just how bad it really is, keep an eye on weather reports in your area. Is public transportation still available? Have the police asked citizens not to drive? Are schools and other businesses in your area closing do to hazardous road conditions? You can use this information to guide your decision.
Other Financial Considerations
In addition to the question of wages, you’ll need to determine whether it costs you more to keep your doors open or to close the business. Does bad weather notoriously keep customers away from your business? Or does closing on a snow day mean you’ll miss out on additional foot traffic? The answer won’t be the same for every company.
What’s Your Winter Weather Policy?
Taking all of these things into account, it’s a good idea to put a winter weather policy in writing. In it, you can outline when decisions will be made about potential closures if snow accumulates outside of business hours.
Don’t forget to detail how employees will be notified of closures. Depending on the number of employees you have, you may decide to use a phone tree, send text messages, or email notices.
Post your official policy in your employee handbook and in a prominent location. The best written policies clearly explain employee’s options regarding pay, make-up hours, and remote work, if available. To make sure everyone knows what to expect, it’s also a good idea to go over your closure policies each year as winter approaches.
So what’s your policy? Have you ever had to take a snow day or close your business for other weather-related events?
It certainly is a tough call to make as a small business owner. On the one hand, time is money. But at the end of the day, employee’s safety trumps all. Our office uses our own software to automate the process of letting employees know if it is a snow day. If we are a the office, we usually will wait for some of the schools to close as a sign it is time. Luckily as an online business, we can all work at home. But it is shocking when you actually do the math at the amount of money lost on snow days.
You’re right Michael, online businesses have an advantage. There’s a lot to lose in terms of money and productivity when you take a snow day for any small business, but particularly for those with physical offices and stores.