In 2011, Japan experienced a level 9 magnitude earthquake off their coast line. At the time, I was working for a corporation headquartered in Japan.

After watching what was happening in the aftermath of the earthquake, the group I was working with asked if a collection could be taken for our co-workers in Asia. In addition to monetary contributions, employees also asked if they could donate a portion of their paid time off bank (PTO). While the request to donate PTO time was denied, we were able to raise several hundred dollars for our co-workers.

I mention this, because as I watch coverage of the wrath of Hurricane Matthew, it’s clear that thousands of employees have lost almost everything, and will not be able to return to work in the immediate future.

While no employer wants to add to their employee’s distress, a decision needs to be made within the organization regarding lost wages. Only an employer knows how much financial support can be given to impacted employees, especially if the organization itself is in financial crisis. However, one area to consider is not only the immediate impact of lost wages, but the lingering effect of lost wages.

From personal experience after a traumatic event in the workplace, I went without income for almost five months while my claim was under medical review.

I was fortunate enough to have savings that covered my lost income. However, I’m not the norm.
In fact, a large portion of employees tend to live paycheck to paycheck, and the average family only has about $6,000 in savings that could be used for emergencies.

While no employer could have imagined I would go without income for just under six months, the silver lining in the experience is that now, long-term lost wages is one of the first items I consider when dealing with a crisis.

As an employer, here are a few suggestions for assisting employees with lost wages:
• Implement a short-term wage bank to be used by employees in the event they do not have enough PTO time to cover their time out. Or, if there is a waiting period for a claim review, consider a temporary wage bank that is paid back once the employee is approved.
• Your employees want to assist their co-worker(s). An easy way for them to feel like they are contributing and having an immediate and positive impact is to create a PTO donation bank. Donations can be given to individuals, or to a group of individuals.
• Finally, if a Victim’s Assistance Fund has been set up, remind the employee they may be eligible to file a claim for lost wages.

Ensuring your employees are financially stable creates an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. Failure to address the financial impact of the situation could lead to hard feelings, animosity and turn over.

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While I agree some turnover is healthy for an organization, should an organization by not addressing these issues during a crisis, you are running the risk of losing good employees.

About Alicia

20 years ago I had no idea other people didn’t recognize and interpret body language the way I did. It was just something I picked up on naturally.
I am a national conference speaker, facilitator, and coach, specializing in non-verbal communication. I received my Master of Science in Human Resources from the University of Houston.
My passion is helping others become influential so that they can reach their career and business goals.

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