5 Tips for Employers Facing COVID-19 Concerns

Last Updated on March 30, 2020 by G. T. HR

Guidance For Employers
During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We know this is a stressful time, as employers struggle to understand their responsibilities in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Here are some key issues to keep in mind when navigating COVID-19’s impact on the workplace.

1. Promote Safe and Healthy Work Environments

During this pandemic, make sure you develop policies aimed at protecting against bacteria and viruses that include:

  • Encouraging employees that are sick or showing symptoms to stay home.
  • Sending employees with acute respiratory illness symptoms home immediately.
  • Providing information and training to employees on cough and sneeze etiquette, hand hygiene and the like

In addition, it is important that employers make sure to keep a clean workspace by frequently sanitizing high-touch surfaces and encouraging employees to wash hands.

 2. Advise Employees of Available Company and State Benefits

Be sure to notify employees of the current changes in benefits. If your company has fewer than 500 employees, make sure to communicate their rights under the new Employee Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Leave Act. In addition, determine if you need to update your handbook for relevant information regarding paid sick leave, paid time off (PTO), vacation time, family leave and other leaves of absence. Also make sure employees are aware of any potential benefits available through their state insurance programs, state disability insurance, paid family leave and unemployment insurance. This is changing often so stay abreast of the news updates in this area.

3. Know the Federal and State laws regarding COVID-19

Be aware that the impact of COVID-19 is triggering many different employment laws. Each law should be analyzed to see if you have to comply. For example, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to employers with 50 or more employees. The emergency Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which goes into effect April, 1, 2020, applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees and requires covered businesses to provide their employees with paid sick or family leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

Even if an employee isn’t eligible for leave under the FFCRA or FMLA, your state may have other protections in place by the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which may require additional leave as an accommodation.

4. Other points to keep in mind

If you are requiring your employees to work from home, stay aware of state laws that may require employers to pay for business expenses, such as cell phones, Internet usage and the like. Keeping time records is ideal to ensure compliance with meal and rest break laws as well as overtime and minimum wage requirements.

If you are furloughing a class of employees, be mindful of equal employment opportunity implications so that decisions do not disparately impact workers based on a protected category, such as age, race or sex.

Be aware of regulations that could be triggered if you have significant layoffs. For example, if you have more than 100 employees and lay off 50 or more employees you could trigger the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, which is commonly called the WARN Act. This act has a 60-day requirement to provide employee notices about layoffs.

5. Consider developing a written infectious disease preparedness and response plan

While employers are not required to have infectious disease preparedness and response plans, it is a prudent step that OSHA recommends. It helps you to have a readied response should outbreaks similar to COVID-19 occur.

If you need assistance in creating a preparedness and response plan, you can go find elements of a plan in OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard. This standard applies to occupational exposure to human fluids and infectious materials.

For more information regarding HR policies during the COVID-19 crisis, COVID-19 support and information or other HR needs, contact MyHRConcierge at 1-855-538-6947 x.108 or email ccooley@myhrconcierge.com.