Administrators in charge of the safety of people and facilities must grapple with unexpected issues every day. When civil unrest occurs in their city, these issues can multiply. No matter where in the city the unrest happens, an entire metropolitan area can become engulfed by the disturbance, especially if it continues for several days.
At the top of the list of unexpected issues are those that concern people, the staff working in your facility. These include not only the safety of workers but also challenges surrounding absenteeism.
For instance, can workers be penalized because areas are blocked off between their homes and the worksite, making it difficult or impossible to get to work? This is one of the first issues that may come up.
Sometimes, these decisions are essentially made for administrators. Disturbances at the end of May in cities across the country prompted some mayors to call for curfews. Workers may not be allowed to go to worksites during curfew hours. But should these workers still be paid or considered “no call” or “no show.”
One of the many things we have learned because of COVID-19 is that many staffers can work effectively at home. Telework has become institutionalized in American industry.
But what about those who serve as custodial workers, building security personnel, or building engineers? These people can only perform their duties while in the facility. What absentee plans are needed for people in these positions?
Administrators need to prepare in advance how civil unrest absenteeism will be handled realizing that decisions may need to be made on a case-by-case basis.
This makes it hard to have a standard policy for all employees absent from work due to civil unrest.
Nevertheless, there are some standard policies administrators can consider. Review this list to find a solution that could work for your organization:
- Enforce attendance policies, no matter the situation. Although this policy may seem most fair to all parties, it may become difficult to enforce and even lead to legal problems.
- Send workers, absent from one site, to an alternate worksite not impacted by the disorder and compensate them for any travel expenses; this assumes availability of another worksite within a reasonable distance.
- Provide work flexibility. For example, allow workers to work a few hours per day instead of their regular shift or come to work when civil unrest is at a minimum, such as very early in the morning or in the middle of the day.
- Apply absences to sick leave, family leave, or vacation leave.
- Provide safe transportation for those workers impacted by civil unrest or provide transportation options so that they do not have to miss work.
- Close the facility entirely until the civil unrest ends.
Each of these possibilities has its upsides and drawbacks that must be considered. There may be no one right answer. What’s most important, however, is that a decision has been made.
Civil Unrest While at Work
What we have been discussing here are civil unrest situations in which staffers cannot get to work. But what if they are at work when civil unrest begins and are unable to leave? This opens the doors to an entirely different set of problems, encompassing personal safety for workers, logistics, and operational costs.
For instance, will these staffers be paid overtime if they are forced to stay in the workplace? This can become very costly, amazingly fast. And while they are locked in the building, is there enough food and water available for these workers until authorities instruct them it is safe to leave? What about sleeping provisions?
As you can see, civil unrest can be very unsettling in many ways for businesses and organizations. Rarely do issues like this come up during “normal” times. But civil disturbance in a community is anything but normal. We are now working with administrators in all sorts of industries address these issues.