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Storms test businesses’ policies on absences

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, at 11:22 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, at 10:03 a.m.

Wichita employers got a test late last week and this week of their policies on employee absences related to severe weather.

Those policies were tested not just by employees, but by winter storms that prompted some businesses to close their offices early or open them late — or not at all.

A quick survey of a few companies Tuesday found that most have similar policies that accommodate people who show up for work regardless of the weather conditions as well as those employees who don’t.

Rene White, manager of talent and staffing for Intrust Bank, said the bank closed its branches a couple of hours early Thursday as a winter storm dumped more than 14 inches of snow on Wichita, as well as sizeable amounts elsewhere in Kansas where Intrust operates branches.

For employees who had worked most of their shift that day, it meant that they would get paid for working a full shift, White said. But for those who called in the next day, saying they were unable to get to work, they had three choices: Take vacation time, make up the lost hours or lose a day’s pay.

She said the bank does make allowances for employees who are late getting to work because of bad weather. She said the bank’s policy allows them to report to work within two hours of their normal starting time and receive a full day’s pay.

White said the bank changed its policy on employee absences because of weather a few years ago. Before the change, she said, the policy was that if the city’s transit buses were running, employees were expected to be at work. But that policy was put into place before the bank expanded outside Wichita to other cities in Kansas as well as Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas.

“What’s going on in Wichita is not the same as in Manhattan or Oklahoma City,” White said. Now the bank considers a number of other factors in determining early closures or late openings and the effects on employees. She said the bank also considers what other businesses are doing, evaluates several weather forecasts and discusses local conditions with managers across the bank’s sites.

At Cox Communications, spokeswoman Sarah Kauffman said the company operated on a “delayed start” Tuesday, after a second winter storm dumped about 6 inches of new snow in the metro area overnight. The delayed start allowed Wichita employees to report to work up to two hours past their normal start time and still receive full pay, she said.

As for employees who don’t come in because of bad weather, they have the option of taking paid time off or having an unexcused absence, Kauffman said, but those situations are determined on a case-by-case basis and at a department level.

Dixie Larson, a partner and director of sales and marketing at accounting and consulting firm Kennedy and Coe, said most of the firm’s employees — CPAs, consultants and support staff — have the ability to work from home in the event of winter storms. That includes the ability to transfer incoming calls to the office to cell and other phones and the ability to connect to the company’s intranet with laptops from outside Kennedy and Coe’s physical offices.

“It’s easy for us to be able to work from home because of our technology,” Larson said. “It’s easy to conduct business that way.”

But Larson said if employees can’t work from home and the firm’s offices are open, employees are expected to come in despite the winter weather.

“There are some people in the firm that have four-wheel-drive trucks for people who don’t want to drive,” Larson said.

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or jsiebenmark@wichitaeagle.com.

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