Does your HR team have a plan for when Mother Nature strikes?
The past month has seen high winds ripping through parts of Australia and New Zealand, leaving a trail of fallen trees and branches that has claimed casualties in the process. While the worst weather we’ve seen so far happened on weekends, what should HR departments do if this had occurred during the work week?
Have a Plan
In severe weather events, both employers and employees often look to HR for guidance. It goes without saying that HR departments should have a contingency plan in place.
In line with employer’s duty of care to employees, the top priority should be to ensure the safety of everyone. HR may choose to contact employees immediately through a number of communication channels such as telephone, SMS or email.
As phone calls are a time consuming process for larger organisations, it might be a good idea to have a pre-written SMS or email signature that can be distributed quickly, to which replies can also be made swiftly.
HR can also appoint other people within the organisation, such as line managers, as touch points for organisation-wide headcounts.
Whichever your plan of attack, be sure to run training programmes so that existing employees and new hires are kept up-to-date with these procedures.
Alternative Work Options
The Fair Work Act 2009 states that employers have a right to suspend work or send employees home without pay during inclement or severe weather in what is known as a stand down. A stand down can only take effect if the reason for it was out of the employer’s control.
As a general best practice tip though, Fair Work Australia recommends that employers allow alternative work arrangements for employees such as working from home or from another site.
As above, it is important that due processes are clearly outlined and presented to employees before crises, so that they know exactly where to report to if an alternative office location or site is available.
Alternatively, employers can consider letting employees take a period of paid leave, such as annual leave, if both parties are agreeable to this.
Review and Improve
Severe weather can be unpredictable so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing it.
Even if you had a comprehensive plan in place, it is crucial to review processes after each crisis to find out if there were further areas of improvement.
HR professionals can also seek advice from other mangers in their networks to see how other organisations handled the situation.
Ultimately, the safety of your employees should be a top priority and no effort should be spared in creating a safe work environment, especially in the midst of a natural disaster.
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