Coronavirus = Revamping Your Handbook Policies

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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many employer practices have changed, which might warrant employee handbook, policy or plan document updates. Below are some updates we want to share with you that should be considered both for the short and long-term.     


PAID LEAVE

  • Adjusted to reflect regulatory requirements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (emergency paid sick leave and expanded FMLA leave for employers with fewer than 500 employees).
    • Create a way to track time used and collect supporting documentation for tax credit purposes.
  • Adjusted for any additional state or local paid leave due to the coronavirus.
  • Modified to offer increased or decreased benefits to employees due to COVID-19.
  • Time-off request procedures clarified to indicate when time off can be required by the employer, should sick employees need to be sent home (paid or unpaid).
  • Updated to include whether and how PTO will accrue while on various types of leave.

Leaves of Absence for Protected Reasons

  • Employers will need to develop policies to address the numerous changes to laws that provide leave to employees that are unable to work for protected reasons.  The policies should educate employees about their rights as well as the eligibility requirements.  In addition, employees must be notified of the notification protocol should they be unable to work due to their own serious health condition or the need to care for a family member.
    • Employers should implement procedures to protect the confidentiality of health information that may be shared by employees.

 

ATTENDANCE/SCHEDULING

  • Adjusted to reflect relaxed attendance policies to encourage sick employees to stay home.
  • Meal and rest break policies adjusted to stagger times and processes implemented to encourage physical distancing.
  • Adjusted attendance or scheduling policies to be more flexible for parents with child care challenges, or employees with other caregiver issues related to COVID-19.

Telecommuting or Work from home policy

  • Who is eligible to work from home
  • How to apply for or request to work from home
  • General expectations for work-from-home continuity

Anytime you transition an employee from the traditional office setting toward telecommuting, it’s important to have a formal agreement in place. That document should communicate:

  • The approximate length of the work-from-home engagement
  • The individual names and signatures of the employee and either their supervisor or an HR professional
  • Attendance, time-logging, and overtime expectations
  • Expectations for the use of company-owned devices and platforms from home
  • Official communication expectations in terms of check-ins

 

SAFETY

  • Physical distancing practices detailed to support a safe workplace.
  • Employee health screening policies created, including temperature taking, and the confidential handling processes of resulting records.
  • Added policy and procedures for employees to report, and how the employer will handle a positive COVID-19 case at the worksite.
  • Procedures implemented for employee quarantine.
  • Visitor policies updated with health screening practices.

 

TRAVEL

  • Travel policies updated to reflect essential versus nonessential travel and the impact of domestic or global travel restrictions.
  • Quarantine policies added to address both business and personal travel, including pay arrangements when telecommuting is not possible.

 

TRAINING

  • Added or updated cross-training program to accommodate more employee absences.
  • Added or updated telecommuting training program with any new procedures.

 

LAYOFF/RECALL

  • Added policy on layoff and recall procedures, which include information on whether and for how long benefits may continue.

 

GROUP HEALTH INSURANCE

  • Updated plan document for any revised eligibility requirements during a layoff or furlough (such as eligibility being extended to those laid off), and any requirements for reinstating coverage upon returning to work. Remember the Affordable Care Act requires employers to reinstate employees to the plan if removed from the plan for less than 13 weeks.
  • Ensured coverage changes, such as adding telehealth benefits, and services not subject to deductibles (such as COVID-19 related testing) have been incorporated into the plan.
  • If employee premiums were paid during leave, adjusted policy on how or if the employer will recover those costs from employees.
  • Flexible spending accounts updated to include
    • over-the-counter drugs (retroactively covered as of January 1, 2020)
    • mid-year election changes allowed due to COVID-19

 

401(K) OR OTHER PENSION PLANS

  • Updated any revised eligibility issues due to layoff or furlough. Included information on break in service issues or counting years of service concerns due to layoffs.
  • Revised plan to include coronavirus-related distribution information.
  • Adjusted any in-service employee loan requirements, including newly increased loan amounts, eligibility and pay-back procedures.


While some changes to employer plans and policies may have been temporary to alleviate immediate issues caused by COVID-19, some changes may become permanent – the new normal.  Employers need to stay ahead of these policy changes, and be aware that you may have to update your handbook on a more regular basis or include an addendum.  HR On-Call is adept at helping to evaluate any handbook changes you might need to make this year.  Please contact Susan Arnold @ 515-401-2233 to learn more!  

 

Susan Arnold
HR On-Call, LLC
p. 515.401.2233
e . Susan@HROn-Call.com

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

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