Here are the major elements small businesses need to address when drafting a disaster-management plan:
Communication, IT and worker safety
1. Getting in touch with employees. Communication is critical in the event of any disaster. That means employers should have a updated list of all staffers’ home and cell phone numbers, plus a personal email in the event your server goes down.
From there, identify who will decide whether the business will stay open (or open late), as well as who will relay important information to people and who employees can go to for advice, assistance and information.
2. Understanding IT’s role. Because IT plays a vital part in keeping all of your info safe, be sure you’re on the same page when it comes to answering the following questions:
- How will critical data be secured?
- Can it be housed in an off-site location (e.g., cloud-based storage)?
- Do employees know how to connect remotely to your firm’s server – or where to go if they’re having issues?
3. Focusing on worker safety. There will always be those workers who will risk their own personal safety because they don’t want to be docked for the time.
So it’s up to employers to make it known that workers’ safety is priority No. 1 and, if possible, limit the consequences for not coming in.
Example: During Hurricane Sandy a number of firms’ communications to staffers included some form of this message, “While we hope that you can make it to work, we understand if it isn’t possible and you won’t be docked for missing work.”
What about FMLA?
It’s important for employers to keep this in mind: The FMLA doesn’t entitle workers to take work time off to attend to personal issues stemming from a disaster.
However, the effects of a disaster can trigger an FMLA qualifying event.
Example: An employee with an anxiety disorder who experiences a flare up of his or her condition.
However, medical certification is necessary.
Also, there are situations where an employee is already out on leave and a disaster causes a business to shut down for some time. Here, does the time the business is shut down count against the workers’ leave?
Answer: If the business is shut down for a week or more, that time won’t come out of an employee’s FMLA allotment.