Adapting to Climate Change: Disaster Planning


As the business community in general prepares for a world with climate change, human resources departments also need to be involved in that planning. 

The last several years have seen myriad disruptions to business all over the world from various places and causes.  One of the commonalities is that the people affected were not able to get to work or even be available to work for a relatively long period of time – either because of infrastructure issues or because they were dealing with their own concerns for themselves and their families.

Getting Employees Back to Work

Often employers are pretty good about getting the business infrastructure backed up or have contingency plans, and they think they have similar plans for their employees – but when the disaster strikes, they are often surprised by how much help employees need to get back to work.

Financial Aid for Employees

Even those employers that have contingency plans for their employees often do so without taking into account the various regulatory requirements that they need to comply with in their roles as employers.  It is not enough to just provide housing or cash for their employees –in the U.S. they must do so in ways that fulfill employer compliance obligations under Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code.

Disruptions to Health Coverage

In addition, with employer medical plans changing and networks being restricted, employers may find that employees who have to leave an affected area might not have the same coverage outside the plan service area.  Insurers are flexible with actual emergencies but after the first few days if an employee or the employee’s family has to be outside the service area for an extended period, the plan might not be as flexible.

Those are all items that employers ought to consider from a human resource perspective as they prepare for the next disaster.

About Jay Kirschbaum

Jay spent 22 years as a tax attorney specializing in employee benefits before joining Willis in 2001. He is current…
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