The recent spate of hurricanes in the South has affected millions of people and cost billions in damages — and has had a big impact on employers. From communicating available benefits to workers to staying on top of legal obligations, such as whether they need to pay workers who stay home, companies have their hands full in the wake of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey.

A damaged sports utility vehicle (SUV) sits on top of debris from the destroyed Chateau Bordeaux restaurant after Hurricane Irma at Coral Bay in St John, U.S. Virgin Islands, on Sept. 12, 2017.
A damaged sports utility vehicle (SUV) sits on top of debris from the destroyed Chateau Bordeaux restaurant after Hurricane Irma at Coral Bay in St John, U.S. Virgin Islands, on Sept. 12, 2017. Bloomberg

Here is a roundup of EBN’s news coverage of the storms.

How benefits can help employees suffering in Irma’s wake
As employees seriously impacted by hurricanes Harvey and Irma begin to come to grips with the devastation, they might be wise to take advantage of several existing benefits, industry experts say. In addition, HR and benefits managers may need to create some new ones immediately to help employees get back on their feet.

10 things employers should do in wake of Hurricane Irma
Natural disasters can have a devastating effect on individuals, businesses, management and employees. How an employer navigates a significant crisis can have a lasting impact on business operations and its employees. Law firm Ogletree Deakin notes employers need to face a number of issues, including dividing up responsibility, developing a communications plan, contacting their insurer and being supportive of employees.

AlertMedia mobile app communicates with employees during crises
The recent spate of hurricanes in the South may have employers wondering how they would best communicate benefits and other vital information with their workers should a natural disaster — or other emergency — hit their city. Technology company AlertMedia aims to give employers a solution through its cloud-based platform and mobile app, which sends pre-designed messaged before and during a disaster.

Hurricane Irma: 10 challenges for employers
As Florida and the Southeast Coast of the United States begin to recover from Hurricane Irma, employers will face a host of unusual challenges, on top of their basic operational needs and personal concerns. Here are 10 key issues likely to affect employers in Irma’s wake.

Are employees eligible for leave during a natural disaster?
The aftermath of Hurricane Irma is bound to raise questions about a firm’s obligation to provide time off under laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, one attorney says. Here’s what employers need to know.

Why employers need to step up efforts after a natural disaster
Without proper plans in place, like an EAP, employees are more likely to experience personal and health-related problems, use more sick days and potentially leave their company.

6 things employers need to know about Hurricane Irma
As Florida and the East Coast assess damage from Hurricane Irma, employers in the affected areas should be prepared to address storm-related issues. Those who are required to close their businesses need to determine whether they need to pay workers who stay home — which puts those employers on the hook for unemployment compensation — and whether workers’ compensation applies to weather-related injuries. Here are six questions employers may have — and answers — about how the hurricane will affect their operations.

How Florida employee benefit firms prepared for Hurricane Irma
Prior to the storm, employee benefit firms across the East Coast put their emergency plans in place, hoping for the best — and ready to recover from the worst. Multiple firms — including Sapoznik Insurance in Fort Lauderdale, Gravity Benefits in Bonita Springs, Gallagher Benefit Services with various locations across South Florida and Selden Beattie in Coral Gables — all closed their physical offices on Friday ahead of the storm. Most also closed on Thursday, mainly to give their employees time to prepare for the storm.

401(k) money should be a last resort for Harvey victims
A financial analyst says that 401(k) participants who were affected by Hurricane Harvey should consider taking withdrawals a last resort option to raise funds for rebuilding their lives, according to this article from Fox Business. That's because they will face income tax and 10% penalty if they are younger than 59 1/2, says the expert. “So if you’re in the 25% federal tax bracket, right there you’re only getting 65 cents on every dollar you pull out.”

How one Florida employer prepared for Hurricane Irma
The most important thing in times of disaster is giving employees the sense that the company is on top of any work-related concerns that arise, says George Boué, vice president of human resources at Stiles Corporation in Fort Lauderdale. The real estate agency implements its hurricane preparedness program, which it creates ahead of the season, to ease the minds of its employees. These plans often put a heavy emphasis on benefits-related concerns, including employee communications, time-off management and programs that provide assistance to employees during times of disaster.

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