How to Take Care of Your Employees During a Disaster

With Florida still recovering from Hurricane Irma, many small- to medium-sized businesses would do well to plan for the next big storm. A professional employerPEMCO-HURRICANE-PAYROLL.jpg organization (PEO) can help disaster-proof your payroll system and policies in order to protect your workers in times of disaster.

Federal laws

Even in a disaster, The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which sets the criteria for overtime pay regarding exempt and non-exempt employees, still applies, according to the U.S. Department of Labor:

The FLSA is the federal law of most general application concerning wages and hours of work. The FLSA requires employers to pay covered, non-exempt employees no less than the federal minimum wage for each hour actually worked and overtime at one and one-half times an employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours actually worked in excess of 40 in a week. These requirements are not subject to waiver during natural disasters and recovery efforts.

Any hours worked by the employee in the days prior to or following a disaster must be paid. Employees can also be eligible for unemployment compensation if a business remains closed.

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/compensation/pages/disasters.asp

For exempt employees, an employer will be required to pay the employee's full salary if the worksite is closed or unable to reopen due to inclement weather or other disasters for less than a full workweek. However, an employer may require exempt employees to use allowed leave for this time.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employees affected by a natural disaster are entitled to leave under the FMLA for a serious health condition caused by the disaster. Additionally, employees affected by a natural disaster who must care for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition may also be entitled to leave under the FMLA. Some examples of storm related issues might include absences caused by an employee's need to care for a family member who requires refrigerated medicine or medical equipment not operating because of a power outage.

Protecting your payroll

Shifting from in-house payroll to outsourcing might initially seem a little risky from a business standpoint, but the move can help protect you from even greater risk when disaster strikes. With the storage and administration of payroll data safety off-site, PEMCO professionals can keep the process moving forward even if your headquarters is damaged by storms.

PEMCO’s reach extends throughout Florida and into Texas. We can issue payroll checks or pay employees through direct deposit and cash pay cards. We have comprehensive business continuity protocols that enable us to manage payroll even in the event of a disaster.

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). For those employees who are also part of an emergency services organization (such as the National Guard or a Reserve unit), the USERRA may apply. USERRA prohibits discharging, denying initial employment, denying promotion or denying any benefit of employment because of a person's membership, performance of service or obligation to perform service in uniformed service.

Employers may offer employees paid leave for time spent volunteering to assist with disaster relief efforts. Employers who maintain leave banks can also allow employees to donate leave to the leave bank and then award the donated leave to other employees who, in turn, use the leave to volunteer relief services. The FLSA does not regulate the provision or use of leave banks.

PEO payroll services

On a day-to-day basis, outsourcing payroll also pays dividends in cost efficiency and reliability. Partnering with PEMCO for an online payroll system can free up time that your staff can use to grow your business. It can keep your payroll data safely backed up in the event of an emergency at your offices.

According to a USA Today article on corporate travel safety, employers have a legal responsibility, called "duty of care," to ensure employee safety while traveling. It describes some of the steps that employers can take to increase the safety of traveling employees:

Savvy employers provide their travelers with training, emergency contact information and regular updates on weather and transportation interruptions, particularly for employees traveling to high-risk destinations. Some might require check-ins or invest in tracking equipment, often via your mobile devices. However, not all employers do this properly.

A basic travel safety program for your business could include:

  • Safety information.
  • Providing emergency and medical contacts for the area where the employee is traveling.
  • Advice on avoiding food poisoning.
  • Information on particular hazards in the area of travel.

If an employee is injured while traveling, it’s important for them to report the injuries in a timely manner whatever the apparent severity. Late reporting can complicate workers’ compensation claims and, in some states, reduce the amount of benefits that the worker receives.

The Atlantic hurricane season has begun, and businesses throughout Florida are faced with the prospect of preparing for possible disaster. With the aid of a professional employer organization (PEO), you can keep payroll checks flowing for your employees even in the event of an emergency.

Hurricane season began June 1. The U.S. averages one to two hurricane landfalls each season, according to www.weather.com:

There is no strong correlation between the number of storms or hurricanes and U.S. landfalls in any given season. One or more of the 12 named storms forecast to develop this season could hit the U.S., or none at all. Therefore, residents of the coastal United States should prepare each year no matter the forecast.

Developing an overall safety program can also reduce operational costs for your company due to reduced injuries.  If your business does not currently have a safety program in place, the risk management experts at Progressive Employer Management Company can work with your business to develop and implement one. We can also provide comprehensive risk assessments to identify potential hazards within your organization. Contact us today.