7 Ways Small Businesses Can Support Employees During Family Emergencies

8 Min Read

An emergency can happen at any time. People get in car accidents, they lose family members, or experience other medical events that may leave them needing extended time off from work. For large corporations, this time off may be covered by hiring additional employees, FMLA and short-term disability, but for small businesses, this can severely impact the day-to-day business.

While it’s important to find a way to do business as usual, it’s also important to treat your staff with dignity and respect during what can be very trying times. Small businesses are usually like close-knit families who experience the good, the bad, and the ugly together. There are numerous ways to support your staff during emergencies and still get the work done that you need.

Time off

One of the scariest things for employees and business owners is needing time off. Staff members are scared to lose their job if they take time off and business owners are afraid of losing productivity. But one of the best ways to help an employee during an emergency is by offering an adequate leave policy in the event of a true emergency. While this may only be feasible for a few days to a week or two when you’re running a small business, it can alleviate a lot of pressure from your staff member.

As a small business owner, you may be able to use a staffing agency to help fill in the gap temporarily. Training can be hard, but the right skills can go a long way to helping you do business when your regular employees are out of the office. This can be especially helpful if you can offer extended time off or a leave of absence.

Reduced hours

Grief and medical emergencies in the immediate family can each impact employee productivity. Reduced hours can help staff work but still take the time they need to handle their grief and to take care of sick family members. If they are the one who is sick or injured it can also give them time they need to heal without overworking. Reduced hours can often be seen as a punishment, so it’s important to offer staff in need the option to work less if they want it.

You may think that less hours will mean less productivity, but in some cases, those hours are very well spent, and you’ll find that employee morale will improve. This better morale can cause employees to work harder in shorter bursts and get a lot of work done.

Work From Home

If they need a different working arrangement to help oversee care or to get better themselves, but they can still work, then perhaps you can allow them to work from home. Not all jobs are good for this option, but for those who can, it’s a tremendous help to employees experiencing an emergency. As a small business owner, you may be concerned and wondering if your staff will get work done remotely, but it’s important to trust the people who work for you. You can easily gauge their work from home productivity when the work is still getting done.

An alternative is to do a temporary work-from-home arrangement or offer a partial work-from-home with some time in the office as well. These options allow you as the small business owner more time to assess how the employee is doing. It also gives you the opportunity to ensure the workload is getting done and it’s not too overwhelming in the midst of a crisis. When employees are empowered to work partially from home or have the flexibility to leave work in a moment’s notice due to a medical alert they usually pay their employer back long-term with hard work and gratitude for the short-term flexibility and understanding.

Benevolence Funds

Many large corporations allow their staff to give into a benevolence fund to help employees during financial crises. Having a benevolence fund gives you the small business owner a way to help your people when they need it. These funds could be given to help cover a medical bill, to pay for food, a plane ticket to go to a funeral, and so much more. It’s up to you to create policies around what the benevolence fund will pay for and how to disburse it to your staff.

Payday Advance Apps

Many companies now offer a way for staff to get their paychecks early through payday advance apps. These apps are an excellent option for those times when an emergency hits between pay periods. With a payday advance, staff are drawing from funds they know they will have based on their hours already worked. Some of these apps let people transfer money to their bank accounts daily. Others only let them take one or two advances per pay period. These advances can come with variable fees. But by offering these apps to your employees, they can rest assured that they always have access to their funds for hours worked even if it’s before payday.

Pay Employees Early

Another option if an employee has a financial emergency that you can help with is to simply pay them early. While doing payroll in advance may cost you more, it helps you take care of your employees in a tangible way. Small business owners can choose to pay based on what’s already been earned or on the total projected amount that would be earned by payday. Paying early may impact your business cash flow. This is one of the reasons it’s important for small business owners to have funds in the bank is to ensure there are never any problems with payroll. This can also benefit you in the event of unforeseen circumstances where your employees need to be paid early.

Pool Resources

Since most small businesses create a tight-knit community culture, other staff may want to help their co-worker during an emergency. Take up a collection from your team for that need. Those pooled resources can help tremendously.

There’s a saying that people may not always remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. When you help your employees during a crisis, they will always remember feeling cared for. Small businesses may be limited in how they can help, but there are options out there that don’t cost you anything except for a compassionate heart and a little creativity.

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