Excitement is building as our state starts the re-entry phase back into our ‘new normal’ but it also brings about increased anxiety for many employers and/or employees. I think it is safe to assume that reopening small businesses won’t likely be as simple as switching on the lights and welcoming employees back in the doors.
Businesses are thinking about moves they need to take to re-establish a regular work life, including rotating schedules, virus screening, cleaning and providing protective equipment and most importantly, who is essential to come back and when.
If a layered approach can be taken, it will allow the employer and employee to process and adapt to the changes thoroughly and purposefully. The details of each employer’s plan to return will look different, but we have identified 5 key issues most will need to understand and start preparing.
#1 :: SAFETY
Elimination of exposure. The first, and most effective control, is to minimize social interaction.
Substitution activities. Evaluate critical, core workers who need to be onsite and create work teams that can be physically isolated from one another. Then, if one employee gets sick and their close contacts need to self-quarantine, you can shut down that one group for two weeks without shutting down your entire company.
Recall procedures. Plan for how and when employees will return to work or to the worksite to create an organized and controlled approach. Things to consider include:
- Phase-in employees returning to work.
- Notify the state unemployment agency of employees recalled to work. This is a state requirement.
- Determine how to handle employees who are unable or unwilling to return to work.
- Establish physical distancing measures within the workplace by moving work stations to increase separation.
- Define customer and/or visitor contact protocols to appointments only.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Understand and comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) record-keeping and reporting obligations.
- Detail cleaning procedures and procuring ongoing supplies.
#2 :: EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
Communicate any changes to employees as soon as possible.
- Group health insurance
- Eligibility—due to leave or reinstatement.
- Flex spending accounts
- Review Dependent Care Assistance Program election changes with employees to ensure their new or revised elections are correct.
- Over-the-counter medical products are now allowed under flexible medical accounts on a permanent basis and should be included in plan documents and communications.
- 401(k) or other pension plans
- Review eligibility issues due to layoff or furlough.
- Consider any break in service issues or counting years of service concerns.
#3 :: COMMUNICATIONS
Establishing a clear communication plan will allow employees and customers to understand how the organization plans to reopen or reestablish business processes.
- How new policy to stay home if sick and physical distancing policies are being used to protect workers and customers.
- Detail what training on new workplace safety and disinfection protocols have been implemented.
- Have exposure-response communications ready to go to any affected employees and customers.
- Have media communications ready to release on topics such as return-to-work timetables, safety protections in place, and how else the company is supporting workers and customers. Prepare to respond to the media for workplace exposures.
#4 :: NEW HIRE OR RE-HIRE PAPERWORK
Employees returning to work who remained on the payroll would generally not need to complete new paperwork. However, for those separated from employment, such as laid-off workers, it may be best to follow normal hiring procedures.
- Determine employment application and benefits enrollment requirements for rehired workers.
- Notify state unemployment agencies of recalled workers, whether rehired or not.
- Address I-9 issues
- If completed remotely, complete in person upon return to the workplace.
- Update any expired work authorization documents or make note of which need updating as soon as new documents are received by the employee.
#5 :: POLICY CHANGES
Since, it is no longer business as usual, and employers will likely need to update or create policies to reflect the new normal. Refer to the major topics listed above that pertain specifically to your business; creating and communicating those new policies to all employees, as soon as possible.
Finally, remember that no single control strategy is sufficient. You have to think about this in terms of a layered defense, doing everything you can to minimize the risk. Some changes may be long term, even beyond the imagined “finish line” of a widely available vaccine or treatment.
Whatever the topic, HR On-Call is here to you handle the complexities associated with Covid-19 and your business going forward. Stay Safe!
- Coronavirus in Iowa: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/
- Iowa Department of Public Health: https://idph.iowa.gov/Emerging-Health-Issues/Novel-Coronavirus/Business-and-Organizations
A little more about us: Susan Arnold, owner and lead HR Consultant at HR On-Call, LLC. Susan has 20+ years of HR experience and provides a HR presence to business organizations without the overhead expense of a full-time employee. Susan helps business owners improve employer/employee relationships and allows them to focus on their business while resting assured that they are in full compliance with state and federal law. Areas of expertise:
- Reduce Employer Risk and Liability
- Customized Employee Handbooks
- Performance Reviews
- Improve Employee/Employer Relationships
- Background Checks
- Personality Assessments
- Guaranteed EEO Compliance
- Employee Retention
- Recruitment / Hiring
- Employee Discipline/Discharge
Susan is passionate about her customers and listens to their needs. If you are interested in any of the details above or would like more information about her services, please contact Susan! If you have questions on how your specific policy should read or need help navigating a certain instance, contact HR On-Call, LLC.