Question: What can our employees and the company do to support our colleagues that are impacted by natural disasters or community challenges such as power loss?
Answer: Here are some ideas of what other organizations do to support one another in the face of natural disasters (the list can be exhaustive dependent upon your company culture and your financial resources):
- Pay continuation through use of paid leave or otherwise.
- Allowing employees not affected by the disaster to donate their time to PTO banks for use by others (note there are taxation guidelines surrounding this and it is best to review and determine implementation of such a program in advance of any situation).
- Providing van pools and transportation to and from areas where public transit cannot operate.
- Permitting employees to work from home or arranging for employees to work from local telecommuting centers (if no Internet is available at home).
- Providing temporary shelter at local hotels for those displaced from their homes.
- Offering relief assistance for food and clothing.
- Extending health benefits without employee premium co-payments.
- Encouraging use of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
- Providing supplies such as food, medicine, technology, etc.
- Providing gift cards or cash for incidental needs.
- Offering temporary employment to employees’ family members who are storm victims.
- Temporarily relocating employees to other offices or offering alternative work schedules.
- Offering low interest loans to affected employees.
- Donating money or volunteer hours to local relief organizations to support workers and/or matching employee contributions to relief organizations.
- Arrange for childcare support.
Typically, any benefit of value an employer provides to its employees is taxable, with the exception of de minimis benefits. Therefore review of fringe benefit taxation is also recommended when exploring methods to support staff members facing difficult situations in the community.
For more information about the taxability of fringe benefits in general, see IRS Publication 15-B, Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits.