If the weather creates unsafe conditions, you may want to consider closing your business for the day, delaying your opening time, or asking parents to pick up children early.
Some providers' policies are to be available to care for children as long as the parents can get to their home. Other providers don't want to encourage parents to drive through bad weather and run the risk of an accident.
If a parent slips on the ice in your driveway, you can be held liable. Putting a statement in your policy that says you are not liable if parents or children become injured on your property due to bad weather will not hold up in court. You want to have business liability insurance to protect you for all injuries suffered while on your property.
If the parent has a car accident on the way to or from your home, you are not responsible.
You are free to set your own policies about bad weather. And you should.
Your policy should address these situations due to bad weather:
* You close for the day
* You open later in the morning
* You want parents to pick up early
* Whether the parents will pay when you are closed
Your policy can mirror your local school closing polices. If your public school is closed, you will be closed. Parents can monitor school closings that are usually widely broadcast.
You may want to tell parents that you will notify them by a certain time (6am?) whether or not you will be open that day, or will open late. Parents will then watch for your email/call before leaving home.
Your policy should emphasize that your primary consideration is the safety of everyone. You should not hesitate to ask parents to pick up children in the middle of the day as bad weather approaches or worsens. If your home loses power, you should have parents pick up immediately, unless the weather is so bad that driving is unsafe.
Here's an excellent bad weather policy by Leisha Harrelson from Maryland. She had contacted me about writing an article about this topic.
You can set your own rules about whether or not to charge parents if you are not open. In my opinion, parents should be expected to pay for a full day even if you delay your opening time or ask parents to pick up early.
If you close for a day or two I think it's reasonable to still expect parents to pay. You might not want to charge parents if you are closed for an extended period.
Parents may also suffer a financial hardship becasue of bad weather, making it difficult for them to pay for child care in the short run. You may or may not want to forgive some or all payments under the parent can get back on her feet. If you do forgive some payments, you cannot claim this as a business deduction.
Whether or not you have anticipated such situations in your policies, you always have the option of relaxing your rules in an emergency.
After preparing a bad weather policy, discuss it with parents before there is an emergency and review it annually.
If a power outage causes you to lose food stored in your refrigerator or freezer, or if a storm causes damage to your property and home that is not covered by insurance, you can use the casualty loss rules to deduct the business portion of these expenses.
For further information, see my article "When a Natural Disaster Strikes."
What is your bad weather policy?
Tom Copeland - www.tomcopelandblog.com
Image credit: www.twinhills.k12.ok.us