Inclement Weather-Remote Work Policy: Ensuring Safety & Productivity

By Jenny Barnes on Dec 13, 2023
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As the first winter snowstorm of 2023 blanketed the Midwest with a shimmering white layer just after Thanksgiving, it sparked a flurry of questions among Axcet's regular blog readers. With roads glazed in ice and snowdrifts piling up, the pressing question arose: should there be a clear inclement weather-remote work policy to guide employees on snowy or icy days?

Below, we answer these timely inquiries, providing insights and guidance for those navigating the challenges of weather-induced remote work

RELATED: Can Employers Require Attendance During Inclement Weather? >>

Developing an Inclement Weather-Remote Work Strategy


Recently, some employees presented a proposal to work at home on days when weather conditions are severe. None of our employees currently work outside of the office, so we don’t have a remote work policy for employees (occasional or otherwise). How should we respond?


As an employer, you have a legal and ethical obligation to keep employees safe while they’re working on your behalf. When possible, letting people work from home is far better than having an employee get hurt on the way to work, which could put your company at risk of a workers’ compensation claim or a negligence or wrongful death lawsuit.

Even more important than the legal concerns, of course, is to follow practices that demonstrate you care about your employees’ well-being. In addition to commuting safety, schools may be closed, leaving those employees who have young children in a pinch. In our experience, allowing remote work is a good practice when weather is a factor.

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Establishing Clear Guidelines: The Need for an Inclement Weather-Remote Work Policy


Do we need an inclement weather-remote work policy?


The short answer is yes. Such a policy lets employees know the circumstances under which the company encourages them to work from home.

RELATED: Can Employers Require Attendance During Inclement Weather? >>


What should we include in an inclement weather-remote work policy?


During the pandemic, many companies developed remote work policies. That’s a good place to start as you develop or update existing inclement weather guidelines – which you should do unless your entire team telecommutes 100% of the time.

Your inclement weather-remote work policy should clearly define expectations, such as employees’ availability when they are off-site, connectivity to systems they need to do their jobs (internet and phone, for instance), work hours and how they should notify their managers and departments that they will be working from home. You’ll also need to ensure that employees who are allowed to work from home have everything they need for remote work health and safety.

free template sample business closure due to inclement weather messages

Critical Components of an Effective Inclement Weather-Remote Work Policy

Establishing protocols your company will follow when bad weather occurs on days employees would otherwise be expected at the workplace ensures everyone knows what to do when the time comes. Most notably, your policy should address:

  • How and when employees will be notified of an office closure.

  • When and whether late start times or early work departures are allowed.

  • Whether or not hourly employees will be compensated if you decide to close the office and they cannot perform their jobs at home. Be sure to check the Fair Labor Standards Act of the U.S. Department of Labor, which sets forth requirements related to inclement weather and worker pay.

  • How employees should report that they can’t make it into an open workplace and whether their pay will be docked if they are non-exempt.

  • What your expectations of productivity will be for employees whose work can be completed at home.

Put systems in place that allow you to effectively communicate with employees in various circumstances – for example, if the power is out at your workplace. You also may want to consider categorizing employees into groups based on whether their work is location-dependent, and you may need to implement strategies to fulfill business functions that must be handled on-site.

An effective inclement weather-remote work policy protects both you and your employees. It helps ensure your people – the most important resources a small business has – stay safe, connected, informed and engaged during severe weather events.

RELATED: Weather Closures: Do You Have to Pay Employees for Snow Days? >>

Fostering a Supportive Work Environment: Health and Safety in Focus

Allowing flexibility and occasional remote work when weather necessitates will go a long way to lessening stress for your employees and showing them you care about their health and safety. It may also be helpful to create a remote worker safety checklist with tips that help employees ensure their home workspace is safe, ergonomically suitable and hazard-free.  

As we navigate the challenges of remote work during inclement weather to ensure the safety of our teams, remember that expert guidance is just a call away. At Axcet HR Solutions, we specialize in tailoring strategies to meet your specific needs, ensuring a harmonious balance between operational efficiency and employee well-being.

With over three decades of experience serving the Kansas City area, our dedicated safety and health consultants are equipped to help you create comprehensive policies and checklists that prioritize the health and safety of your remote workforce. Don't let inclement weather disrupt your business continuity. Reach out to Axcet HR Solutions today and take the first step towards a safer, more resilient workplace.

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Written by Jenny Barnes

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