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Natural disasters have become an all-too-common occurrence, and hospitals and other health facilities are on the short list of establishments that never shut down, no matter how threatening the weather becomes. In fact, the exact opposite is often true: as the weather outside becomes more dangerous, the hospital inside becomes more active.
Indeed, some of the most hectic and unpredictable times for hospital employees are when there's inclement weather. After all, these conditions can lead to countless injuries, all while valuable staff are more likely to call in sick or stay with their families to wait things out. Together, it creates the perfect storm of staffing issues.
With the increasing prevalence of weather-related disasters, it's no coincidence that 2018 marked the first year that inclement weather data was included in the Mercer Clinical Pay Practices Survey. Understanding how hospitals adjust their HR policies to incentivize employees to not only attend work, but also to cover shifts for other workers during these trying times has become an important HR topic.
An essential employee is an employee whose work involves the urgent protection of human life or property. In a hospital setting, essential employees are critical to keeping operations running smoothly, especially under severe weather conditions. Typically, essential employees are those directly responsible for patient care and keeping the facility running.
It's important for organizations to proactively classify their employee functions as either "essential" or "nonessential," based on the criticality of the role they play and it's especially important for organizations that remain open during inclement weather incidences to do so. Of the 53% organizations that actually do use these classifications:
83% of respondents indicated that nurses were classified as essential employees.
In addition to prioritizing essential and nonessential personnel, you should also take some time to consider all the unusual ways your employees will be affected. For example, you may need them to stay late, sleep at the facility, or come in when they were not previously scheduled. With policies in place, when inclement weather does jeopardize your immediate staffing, you're prepared to properly reward and incentivize your hard-working employees when they go above and beyond to keep things moving.
Keeping essential employees on site is critical to maintaining your operations, especially when you're unsure if the next shift will be able to make it in. Though your first thought may be to provide additional compensation to incentivize your employees for working well after their scheduled shifts come to an end, the majority of hospital systems don't offer additional and/or specialized pay under these conditions. As you can see, the types of hourly pay trends for delayed release throughout the market vary quite significantly:
Delayed releases also bring various other questions to the table. For example, when you need an employee to stay at the facility, will the employees have time to sleep? And should they be paid while doing so?
During some of the more extreme weather situations, your employees could end up sleeping at the hospital, whether by choice or sheer necessity. When it's a necessity, US hospitals have a variety of philosophies when it comes to compensation:
Setting up appropriate compensation policies for sleep time means considering a variety of scenarios. However, as an HR professional, it's your duty to consider each and every one so you can properly address it on the chance it occurs. To give you an idea of how variable these scenarios could be, consider the following sleep-related questions:
These are just a few of the many potential scenarios that an inclement weather policy should look to address. However, there are a host of other infrequent, yet still very important, considerations to keep in mind as well.
To reduce stress on your staff during inclement weather conditions, you may also want to consider implementing other policies that encouraging employees to come in despite less-than-friendly weather conditions, such as:
Regardless of what components your policy ultimately includes, you should always strive to make it as mutually beneficial as possible. This way, it will be as fair for your employees as it is fair for your organization.
As a professional working in the healthcare field, serving your community is a priority. Because of this, you should be prepared to do whatever it takes to keep your facilities properly staffed, especially in times of emergency.
However, there's never just one solution to every potential issue that might arise under adverse conditions. That's why it's so important to be familiar with all your policy specifics and consider how certain new policies might impact overtime rewards, short-term incentives and bonuses, per-diem staffing alternatives, IT and tech issues, shift differentials, and more. Mercer's Clinical Pay Practices Report provides you with all the in-depth industry data you need to fully evaluate and refine your hospital's overall approach. For insights into base pay and total cash compensation for your hospital employees, check out the IHN - Healthcare System & Hospital Compensation Suite.