Counties across the state and across the country are reopening as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread. With most states operating under staggered reopening guidelines, many counties have met the guidelines to enter into “Phase 1” and “Phase 2” of the reopening process. Mask mandates are becoming more prevalent with businesses adhering to state and federal government regulations and OSHA and CDC guidelines.
As an employer, business operations are a top priority, but the safety and health of your employees should be right up there as well. How do you balance both? How do you reopen your organization and focus on business operations, but ensure that your employees are kept safe and just as important, feel safe when reentering the workforce?
Ensure Compliance with New Regulations and Orders – Most if not all states have some level of executive orders in place. Intended to provide additional regulations surrounding federal standards and expectations on maintaining safe working conditions, make certain that you are in compliance with your state’s specific rules and that health standards are met and maintained.
Prepare the Workplace – Based on those regulations and orders, ensure that the workplace is set up according to standards. Ensure that measures have been taken to meet social distancing rules, enforce rules regarding facial coverings, and identify best practices for maintaining disinfecting routines and identifying and eliminating any risks for possible exposure.
Communicate!! – With many employees still working remotely, there is a prevalent and understandable concern with returning to the workplace as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country. Communicate with your employees. Listen to their concerns and communicate to them what your organization is doing to ensure the safest possible working environment. Communicate new policies and practices, along with expectations of all employees.
What if They Refuse? – A problem many employers are running into, what if an employee refuses to return to work based on executive orders or concerns for their health? The nitty gritty is that a fear of returning to work is not a protected reason to continue to telecommute. You can reasonably require an employee to return, so long that you are meeting guidelines regarding workplace safety. However, as in many situations in which accommodations are requested, work with the employee to see if a temporary and mutually beneficial compromise can be met that works for everyone. This may include a part time work from home arrangement, or a work location that is more isolated from others.
The impact the new coronavirus has had on organizations is staggering. Transitioning back to work is a process that should be as smooth as possible, but keep in mind that every industry, every employee, every case is different. There is still so much gray area regarding employees returning to work and managing leaves under the FFCRA. No one situation is the same nor should they be treated as such. As we slowly start resuming (somewhat) normal activities, feel free to contact us for advice and counsel regarding implementing policies and practices that are tailored for your organization and culture.