Business Group Blog

Employers Have Been Quick to Offer Aid after the Devastation of Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey Rescue Photo Credit: Flickr User: US Customs and Border Protection

NBGH members, including Aetna, Amazon, Apple, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Google, GE, Home Depot, Humana, Lowe’s, JP Morgan Chase, PepsiCo, Starbucks, UPS, Walmart, and Wells Fargo, quickly stepped up to donate millions to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

The emotional and physical recovery will take time, and many of us are looking for ways to sustain our support as affected communities heal and rebuild. Employers play a significant role in providing needed leadership and assistance to employees, their families and their communities in the aftermath of a disaster.

For employers, communication is key. Keep employees well-informed about business operations, and make sure information about the EAP, health insurance and other benefits and supports is readily available by updating websites and using social media to broaden your reach.

A recent Employee Benefit News article, Companies communicate benefits, resources to Hurricane Harvey victims, featuring LuAnn Heinen and Rachel Schacht of the Business Group, discusses the importance of timely and continuous communication.

Here are some other specific ways businesses can let employees know we’re all in this together.

Encourage Use of EAP Services

EAPs are a common benefit for large employers that assist employees and their families in addressing various life challenges, including natural disasters. Relevant services employers can offer through the EAP include:

  • A 24 hour crisis hotline
  • Critical incident response
  • Counseling
  • Referrals to community resources
  • On-site counseling and support groups once employees return to work
  • Trainings on stress management and resiliency

For managers and leaders, EAP professionals can also advise on how to communicate in a supportive way with employees after a tragedy.

Expand Leave Opportunities

Employees affected by Hurricane Harvey will have a host of challenges to address. Some will have lost homes or vehicles. Others will need to provide care for a loved one who is injured or find child care with closed schools. Under these extraordinary circumstances, employers may need to be flexible and expand leave policies to maximize support. Employees with a serious health condition caused by the storm or those who must care for a family member may be entitled to leave under FMLA.

Employers can also extend opportunities for those who wish to help others in need by granting paid leave to volunteer with relief efforts or donate blood, or establishing a leave donation program for employees to give their accrued PTO.

Offer Flexible Work Arrangements 

It is time to approach things differently. In addition to the host of personal challenges caused by the storm, impact on the wider infrastructure, including transportation, may cause problems with getting to and from work. Employers should consider offering flexibilities in work schedules and telework opportunities wherever possible.

NBGH resources that may be of assistance to employers during this time include Getting a Handle on Stress and Building Employee Resilience​, Increasing Employee Assistance Program Effectiveness and Utilization and Mental Health and Emotional Well-being.