Climate Leave: PTO for When the Wind Blows

Courtesy of UBA Benefits

This year, much of the United States had some form of major natural disaster—hurricanes, wildfires, floods, tornados—and millions of people were either directly affected, or had a family member or close friend who was affected. This life-changing disruption often meant that people couldn’t, or weren’t able to, go to work. While many companies were understanding and granted people the time they needed to take care of their issues, only a handful of those businesses kept paying their employees. Even worse, some businesses insisted that their employees report for work or risk termination.

In article titled “Add this to a list of job demands: Paid vacation for extreme weather” in Employee Benefit News, many employers either pressured employees, or downright insisted that they come to work during Hurricane Irma despite an evacuation order from Florida’s governor. On the plus side, many businesses are taking notice of their employees’ concerns and are looking at adding “climate leave” as part of their benefits package.

This means that if there’s an extreme weather event that keeps an employee from reporting for work, or if a state of emergency is declared, then the company will continue to pay those affected employees for a specific number of days. While the determination may be on a case-by-case basis, at least it’s reassuring for an employee to know, rather than hope, that he or she will be covered by their employer. By putting the benefit in writing, especially in disaster-prone states, it also adds an enticement for employee recruiting and retention.

Absence management is a hot topic right now, and employees are acutely aware of which companies are offering the best benefits that fit their needs. Employers are equally aware that employees are actively seeking out organizations with a wide range of voluntary benefits. Regardless of whether or not a business might decide to fire an employee during a natural disaster if he or she doesn’t show up for work, that employee still needs to pay the bills. Add the stress of a natural disaster, losing a home, loved one, pet, family member, etc. and it’s easy to see how the “climate leave” benefit has a certain appeal.

By Bill Olson, VP, Marketing & Communications at United Benefit Advisors