Winter Weather Disrupts Worker Attendance

By Kathy Gurchiek Mar 10, 2015
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Ice and snow covered much of the U.S. this year, impacting business operations and affecting nearly 79 percent of workers, according to findings from a 2015 survey released March 3 by temporary staffing agency Kelly Services Inc.

In addition to impacting workers’ commutes, inclement weather in some instances affected employers’ operations or caused business travel to be canceled or rescheduled. And some employees were unable to report to work when severe weather prompted their child care provider or child’s school to open late or close entirely.

Among the 988 adults employed in the U.S. that Harris Poll surveyed online Feb. 25-27 on behalf of Kelly Services, 31 percent reported partly or completely missing work due to the weather in 2015. Those absent from work for weather-released reasons missed an average of nearly four days. Workers in the Northeast and South were absent more often than employees in other regions, missing an average of 3.9 and 4.7 days, respectively.

And for those did not miss work due to Mother Nature, 10 percent said their workload increased as they picked up the slack for colleagues who were absent because of the weather.

What’s a worker to do?

  • 19 percent reported that their employers provided workplace flexibility options, such as permitting them to work from home or to work a flexible schedule.
  • About 1 in 10 took unpaid time off or used paid time off when their employer was closed because of the weather or weather prevented the employee from making it to work.

“We witness firsthand how weather conditions affect the everyday lifestyle of individuals and disrupt normal operations,” said Steve Armstrong, senior vice president of U.S. operations for Kelly Services. “Those businesses structured to offer flexibility within their workforce are often better prepared to handle extreme weather conditions.”

It’s also advisable to have an inclement weather policy, which would cover issues such as whether employees may bring their children to work with them, how employees will be contacted should the employer need to close or adjust its hours, and who will make decisions on the business operation in the event of a weather-related disruption, noted a February 2015 Ogletree Deakins blog post.

It’s important, too, for organizations to establish and communicate an inclement-weather attendance policy so that employees are aware of the employer’s attendance expectations in the event of a closure or delayed opening.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News. Follow her @SHRMwriter.​​

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