It's a good bet that wintry weather will cause at least some of your workers to arrive late or stay at home. Before a storm hits, be sure employees know about your company's inclement weather policy. If you don't have a policy, now's the time to create one. A written policy that's been distributed to all employees will help everyone avoid misunderstandings and can also serve as a checklist if you have to close for the day.

What Your Policy Should Cover

Paying employees. Generally, nonexempt employees must be paid for the hours they work, while exempt employees who work any part of the day are entitled to an entire day's pay.

Special rules apply to restaurants, hotels, and retail establishments. If the weather does not allow these establishments to open, or if nonexempt employees do not report to work because of inclement weather, there is no obligation to pay those employees. Restaurants and hotels that close early due to bad weather must provide at least two hours' pay for nonexempt employees who report to work; retail establishments must provide at least four hours' pay.

Exempt employees must be paid for the full day if their employer is closed for the entire day, opens late, or closes early. They may, however, be asked to substitute accrued paid time for work time missed. Hourly employees who would otherwise be paid may also be offered the option of using accrued time.

Circumstances that cause you to close. Many policies state a general approach to closing, such as, "We are always open unless the state government closes."

Notification of closing. Decide how you will notify employees if your company will be closed. For example, you might require them to listen to a particular radio station for an announcement, phone a supervisor, or check a voicemail message.

Key jobs. Depending on the nature of your business, you might need only key employees to report for work during bad weather. Health care workers at a nursing home, for example, would have to be on duty, but the business office might close.

Who decides. Your policy should specify who has the authority to close your operations. A large organization or one with several work sites might need to authorize more than one person.

Safety. Consider stating that employees should not endanger themselves trying to get to work during bad weather. This might help you avoid problems if an employee is injured on the way to work.

Lynn Atkinson is an assistant counsel at CBIA. She can be reached at lynn.atkinson@cbia.com.