Thought leadership

Employers to Step in after Disaster Strikes

Employers to Step in after Disaster Strikes

HR can play an important role in helping organizations, employees and their families deal with the aftermath of major disasters like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

Typically HR may have responsibility for executing some portion of the organization's Crisis Management Plan as well as the organization's Communication Plan during a disaster.  No matter what the formal responsibility, HR leaders will be looked to as needing to coordinate the company's overall response for the health, safety, and well-being of their employees.  The most basic rule for a HR department in this type of situation is to be supportive and employee focused:

Crisis Management Plan activities for HR leaders may include:

• Emergency staffing arrangements and provision of food/shelter/clothing for stranded employees

• Support for the senior leadership command center including tracking/status of key employees in the affected areas

• Off-site business continuity to support clients thru offices not affected, including possible temporary relocation of key staff outside of the affected area

• Ensuring physical safety of employees in workplaces that are in danger of being compromised by approaching weather/flooding

• Activation of a company “Hotline” for phone and email communication, allowing employees to get immediate information on the status of offices and answers to employee questions

• Guidelines for communications with clients on the company's operations and how goods or services may be affected

Communications from HR can include:

• Announcements of location status, shut downs, and/or temporary relocation of office functions and expected timing of when to return to work

• Communications to parts of the company not affected by the disaster on how those employees may help their colleagues and others in the area

• Updates on how the company is responding to the disaster

• Updates on local medical facilities that are open and accepting patients during the disaster

• Updates on local shelters and other regional locations for employees needing basic assistance

• Guidelines on how employees may use the company's intranet or social media to offer/receive assistance from other employees

• Guidance on non-exempt employees not “volunteering” to help the company, as efforts may qualify as “paid work” that needs to be authorized by a manager

The most critical role for HR during a disaster is helping employees deal with protecting their families and assisting with basic personal needs These duties can include:

• Providing EAP contact information and resources

• Payroll continuity and advances if needed

• Locating hotels/lodging outside of the area and assisting with transportation if possible

• Replacement documents for items lost during a disaster including benefit identification cards and company credit cards

• Flexibility with time-off needs for a period of time

• Guidance and time tracking assistance for how post-disaster time will be charged against vacation, sick, and overtime

• Tracking of post-disaster medical issues for employees/qualified family members for FMLA purposes

• Support and job protection for emergency responder volunteers, military reserve, and National Guard members during call-ups

For additional support, please visit the Gallagher Natural Disaster Response Center that provides important resources, information, and contacts for before, during and after the event. This will be updated frequently.

Scott Hamilton

Scott Hamilton is the Global Managing Director of Gallagher’s Human Resources & Compensation Consulting practice, which encompasses 12 locations and over 200 employees across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Mr. Hamilton has extensive experience in developing programs which affect all levels and all aspects of pay delivery systems and alternative reward programs. With a diverse global client base, Gallagher consultants are involved in developing reasonable and timely HR, compensation and benefit solutions ...

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