Employee Engagement, Featured

10 Things Employers Should Do In the Wake of Hurricane Harvey


Natural disasters can have a devastating effect on companies and their employees. Here are the 10 things any company dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophic event should do:

1. Clarify division of labor.

A natural disaster will have such pervasive effects, even the most seasoned leaders are susceptible to becoming overwhelmed. To mitigate panic and encourage a feeling of solidarity, create clear, delineated responsibilities between departments and teams.

2. Facilitate communication.

Make sure everyone in the company is aware that there is a plan in place. Employees should know what’s happening with schedules, operations and status of Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs). Customers and clients should receive clear details about any delays, plus a note of appreciation for bearing with you through a difficult time.

3. Be in touch with insurance.

Make a prompt claim for any damages or losses due to breaks in business operation as a result of the event. Many insurers have disaster response teams that can help you resume operations more quickly than you could on your own – a service that benefits you and the insurer.

4. Stay on top of recordkeeping.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that recordkeeping standards affecting full-time and part-time workers be met – even in the face of a natural disaster. Be sure that workers keep track of their time manually if they are not able to log into electronic timekeeping.

5. Mind your payroll.

Consider the ramifications of both lost time and overtime. After a natural disaster, many employees won’t be able to put in any hours at all – especially if your brick and mortar location(s) are closed or damaged. And in some cases, the workload will only increase. Non-exempt and exempt employees will have different rules applied to their work status and payment requirements, so be sure to review the minutiae of your contracts.

6. Empower a remote workforce.

Whether or not your company typically allows or supports remote work capability, empowering your workforce to put in their hours from home or elsewhere can be an important part of keeping business going while your physical plant is compromised. Your IT department should play a key role in making sure that digital information is accessible, backed up and secure.

7. Expect leave requests.

Be prepared for an uptick in employees requesting leave (FMLA) as a result of the catastrophic event. And remember that some employees will request to take leave to care for a family member who has been adversely affected as a result of the disaster.

8. Ensure safety.

It’s incumbent on the employer to protect employees from danger. It’s critical that your facilities team ensures safe working conditions in the aftermath of a disruptive natural event. Checks should be made for everything from air quality and electrical integrity to structural stability and physical exhaustion.

9. Brush up on benefits.

Reach out to your contracted benefits providers to gain a clear understanding of coverage extent and limitations. And make sure you have all your ducks in a row for continuing coverage through COBRA if there are layoffs or contractors no longer working as a result of the disaster.

Related: The Benefits Employees Want Most

10. Make a plan for long-term support.

Corporate responsibility goes a long way at a time like this. When you support your employees – by being flexible with them through hard times, by doing right by them when they’re suffering physical and mental challenges, by advocating for their health and safety – it pays dividends. You’ll boost loyalty and morale among your workforce, while building your company’s great reputation, which in turn draws top talent – leading to better innovation and business success.

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