Now that some states are beginning to bring employees back to work after the coronavirus lockdown, employers need to be on top of their game with employee safety concerns and compliance with new regs.
Asking employees to return to work and providing a safe workplace for them will be challenging. Amidst layoffs, furloughs and emergency sick leaves, firms will have more safety, administrative and regulatory responsibilities.
It’s key that employers continue to follow guidance and safety orders from state and local governments, as well as federal agencies, including:
CDC: The agency continues to update its guidance for employers on its website and has also drafted proposed guidelines for a phased reopening, which will be available soon.
OSHA: The agency recently issued Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, a 35-page guide for employers to consult when preparing workplaces for employees to return. OSHA recommends employers designate one person to serve as the workplace coronavirus coordinator to address employee concerns and track employees with the virus.
The new OSHA guide includes protective measures, such as limiting the number of employees in offices, staggering arrival and departure times, and installing barriers for meetings.
EEOC: In a recent update, the EEOC issued guidance for employers on a variety of topics. They include reasonable coronavirus-related accommodations as defined by the ADA, hiring and onboarding concerns such as screening for the coronavirus symptoms, and pandemic-related harassment, which may require training for supervisors and managers.
Some employees will be hesitant to return to work for safety concerns unless granted an accommodation. Employers may need to allow them to work remotely longer or install barriers to ensure distances from
co-workers if feasible, says the EEOC.
DOL: The agency has issued a poster that’ll fulfill employers’ notice requirements under the FFCRA. The poster must be displayed on the premises.
Sick leave laws
Employers need to review their existing policies, ensuring compliance with all newly enacted sick leave laws.
First, check that your policies are consistent with the new coronavirus FFCRA law, which became effective April 1, 2020. This law includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency FMLA Expansion Act, both of which will need to be tracked.
“In some state or local jurisdictions, benefits such as extended family leave to employees would be available to the extent they are greater than federal benefits,” says Carlos Ledo, human resource consultant, Engage PEO.
In addition, it’s likely more and more states will provide paid sick leave, as the new emergency leave laws are set to expire at the end of 2020.
By examining their policies, employers can ensure compliance with new laws, as well as develop new policies for:
Coronavirus reporting – Firms need to develop clear policies for coronavirus reporting when someone begins experiencing symptoms.
Remote work – Since some staff will continue to work remotely, firms need to consider interim policies to address employee technology expenses (Wi-Fi, cell phone use, etc.).
“It’s imperative that employers stay on top of the latest guidance as it’s changing constantly, including industry-specific rules that may apply,” says Vanessa Matsis-McCready, director of human resources, Engage PEO.