Weather doesn’t affect your business — until it does, and then it can be a huge challenge. Whether you’re facing a tornado watch, a blizzard, icy roads or a hurricane, weather can be a powerful force that affects your business in unexpected ways. If you’re wondering what your obligations are as an employer, here’s what you need to know about the overlap between labour laws and inclement weather.
The Three-Hour Rule
Under the three-hour rule, if your employees are scheduled to work for longer than three hours and you send them home early, you have to pay them for three hours. In Manitoba, this rule applies even in cases when you send employees home early due to inclement weather, but the laws vary from province to province so it’s a good idea to be familiar with the rules in your province.
Declaring a "Snow Day"
If you want to call a "snow day" or if you decide to close your business for any other weather event, you don’t have to pay your employees. However, you have to notify them that you are closed before they arrive for their shift. If you don’t notify them in advance, you may have to pay them based on the three-hour rule or the reporting rules for your province.
Not Reporting to Work
In some cases, you may want or need to stay open, but some of your employees may call in and say they can’t come to work due to the weather. In this situation, you are not obligated to pay your employees. You may pay them if you want, or you can let them take a personal day. That said, if the employee has a history of absenteeism and you believe they are taking advantage of the situation to get the day off, you may choose to discipline them accordingly. Before taking any action, make sure you understand the applicable laws in your province.
Similarly, if an employee is late due to the weather, you can use your personal discretion to deal with the situation. In a lot of cases, the excuse may be completely legitimate, and you should simply excuse them for being late. In other situations, they may be using the weather as an excuse to hide chronic lateness.
Helping Essential Employees
If you own a restaurant, a boutique, or hundreds of other businesses, you easily can close down as needed for serious weather conditions, but that doesn’t apply to every industry. If you run a nursing home, a hospital, or another essential business, you may need to stay open, but travel may become very difficult for your employees. Consider helping your employees by providing transportation and potentially food and accommodations. For instance, if you have access to a vehicle with snow chains that can move through heavy snows, you may want to pick up employees rather than having them drive their own cars. Similarly, if essential employees cannot get home, you may want to provide meals and rent nearby hotel rooms for them. Laws governing employer responsibilities during inclement weather vary from province to province, but in general, you’re obligated to take reasonable precautions to protect workers, including providing protective clothing as appropriate and allowing more breaks.
Canada has a huge range of different weather conditions, and sometimes, the weather can get scary. To ensure everyone is on the same page the next time there is inclement weather, you may want to draft a policy. It could include guidelines on when to close the business, what to do if employees can’t get to work, and anything else related to these scenarios. To ensure you’re prepared for anything, you may want to have a few different policies to deal with various types of weather.