Most businesses and government agencies have specific policies that managers can follow for closing up shop early. But when your organization hasn't provided you with that information and the human resources department or executive team is not available for consult, take these factors into consideration when sending employees home early.
The type of business you manage often determines how available your employees need to be for your clients. If you have a public client base, closing up early usually isn't an option unless severe conditions warrant such a decision. Someone has to manage the phone lines, unless you can add a message that lets customers know when they can call back. An option is to develop a trade-off for the person who has to stay behind to man the phones. Have someone else handle that responsibility the next time or give that employee equal time off later.
Bad weather conditions are a major factor when it comes to employee safety. Severe tornado, blizzard or hurricane warnings are all good reasons for closing up early and letting employees get home safely. National weather tracking systems will let you know the projected brutality and impact of the storm, as well as its expected path and duration. You don't want your employees in harm's way – and putting them in the path of a bad storm could become a financial liability for you. It just isn't worth the legal hassle when you can just as easily send employees home early.
Extended Power Outages
When the power goes out, no one can work. If your staff consists of many hourly workers, sending them home early when the power goes out will save money. It's pointless to have employees standing around doing nothing when they're on the clock. But before you send employees home due to a power outage, you might want to check with your local power company to determine how long the power will be out. If not too long, suggest that employees take early lunches or breaks until the power comes back on.
Instead of worrying whether to let employees leave early on extended holiday weekends, consider adopting a policy that includes rotating skeleton crew coverage on holiday weekends to give employees a chance to leave early. Some organizations let employees go home early on extended holiday weekends for safety reasons associated with increased traffic congestion. It's an easy way to give a perk to your employees and still get coverage without spending bonus money.
Money and Legal Factors
The other thing to consider is how early closure affects sales or income. Friday late afternoon closures aren't usually that big of a deal, because many folks leave work early anyway. If your staff consists of salaried workers, you won't be saving any money by sending them home early. When your staff is paid by the hour, when you let them go early, this saves money, unless state law requires you to pay them anyway. Some states require employees to be paid for a specific amount of hours under report-in-pay laws. Check with your state's labor department or board for more information.
- Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal: What Are Employer Responsibilities In Bad Weather?
- National Federation of Independent Businesses: How to Thank Employees When You Can't Afford to Give a Bonus
- Society for Human Resource Management: Legal & Regulatory -- Inclement Weather
- ARLNow: Should Employers Have Let Employees Out Earlier?
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