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According to the US National Climate Assessment Report, “Over the last 50 years, much of the US has seen increases in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, heavy downpours, and in some regions, severe floods and droughts.”So, what exactly does inclement weather mean?
Think, intense winter storms, dangerous wind events, water shortages, and massive flooding making areas hazardous for a temporary period of time.
When natural disasters occur, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are expected to remain operating. That’s where inclement weather policies provide guidance and assurance for organizations during these chaotic situations.
Mercer began to capture inclement weather policies and practices in the Mercer Clinical Pay Practices Survey in 2018. Mercer recently released 2022 data that reveals how inclement weather policies have changed in recent years.
The term “essential employee” has become part of most people’s vernacular in recent years. It is the designation for an employee whose work involves the urgent protection of human life or property. In the healthcare industry, we generally apply this designation to employees who care directly for patients. When the healthcare facility is facing inclement weather, employees that keep the facility running may also be considered essential.
Over the last four years, the number of organizations using essential designations to classify employees as crucial to their operations has remained steady. Knowing what roles are considered essential before an emergency situation provides clarity around who is expected to report to duty, who should remain on site, and how employees will be compensated and cared for during these abnormal situations.
In 2022, 72% of organizations recognize nurses as essential employees. This percentage has fluctuated within a small range over the years, but consistently remains the most recognized essential function. Nurses have direct contact with patient care, documentation, and administration tasks that can keep a facility operations running while providing necessary care. Physicians along with LPNs, CNAs, medical assistants, and patient care techs are also recognized as essential employees by 65% of organizations.
72% of organizations recognize nurses as essential employees
Nonmedical staff, such as dietary/food service and maintenance, were both seen as essential by 48% and 39% of respondents, respectfully.
Previously, nonessential employees would be encouraged to stay home, but would often not be compensated for the time lost. With a wider acceptance of remote work across all industries, the Mercer Clinical Pay Practices Survey now reports that 33% of nonessential employees may work remotely. Yet, 55% of organizations require nonessential employees unable to report to work to use personal time off (PTO), vacation, or sick time.
Thanks to improvements in weather technology, many inclement events, such as hurricanes, snowstorms, and powerful storms can be anticipated and tracked. Healthcare facilities occasionally have time before the event to prepare. This may mean that some essential medical staff will arrive early to ensure they are on site when needed. Only 31% of organizations will compensate for this time and it is most often straight-time pay.
Delayed-release is a term used for delaying the release of an employee at the end of their shift to keep them on site. One example would be a snowstorm that prevents the next shift from getting to the facility, therefore the original shift must stay and cover. Approximately 29% of organizations pay time and a half, 14% pay double, and 36% have “other” compensation in place. Only 7% continue to pay straight time for delayed-release.
When employees are obliged to stay on site to ensure they will be there for an upcoming shift, they are typically given a place to sleep. Only 26% of organizations pay for the time employees sleep. When they are compensated for sleep, it is typically (58%) straight time pay or a flat rate (18%).
Even though HR professionals are most likely classified as nonessential during inclement weather, their role in talent management is crucial to an organization’s operations. The trends seen in the data from 2018 to 2021 are a reflection of predominantly prepandemic operations. Hospitals and healthcare facilities have been tested in a number of ways in recent years and have likely found out which employees are truly essential.
Paying talent competitively, reinforcing employee engagement, and proactively investing in the employee value proposition (EVP) is the future of healthcare. Make data-backed decisions for healthcare compensation, and benefits using Mercer’s IHN: Healthcare Compensation Survey Suite, or formulate your inclement weather policy with Mercer Clinical Pay Practices Survey.
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