As people are getting out and doing things, businesses are open and COVID rates are skyrocketing. More than likely, that means it already has or is likely to impact the employees at your small business.
As we outlined in our 4 part series about transitioning back to the workplace, it isn’t the same work environment or work situations that we had previously been accustomed to. Everyone is experiencing things that they have never experienced before and running up against situations that they have never experienced before. This certainly does not make it easy for small business owner to manage while trying to maintain operations and balance it all.
To help break down some of the top things happening in the workplace, here is what we are seeing from our small business clients and in the small business community as they have been working through getting employees back in the workplace:
· Employees exposed to COVID-19 and/or testing positive - We are getting regular calls from small businesses that employees are either having symptoms and waiting for test results, have been exposed to COVID from family or friends or they themselves have tested positive. It is imperative that as a small business owner you are taking all necessary precautions to keep employees safe and take the appropriate steps when an employee is exposed or tests positive. We have developed a Checklist to help guide you on what to do in each of these situations.
Reach out our Client Relationship Manager, Robert Williams at
firstname.lastname@example.org to request that checklist.
· Increase in Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requests – Because of the above as well as summer camps not being available as originally anticipated and the unknowns around school for the next year, small businesses need to be sure that they are compliant with the FFCRA. We did not really see this come into play much when it was first passed in April, but with the increase in exposure and positive cases, we are fielding a higher rate of paid leave requests to determine eligibility. As a reminder, the FFCRA applies to all companies with less than 500 employees and provides paid emergency sick leave (ESL) and paid emergency FMLA (EFMLA) for specific reasons related to COVID-19 and was effective April 1st.
· Testing, Screening and Temperature checks – To screen or not to screen? That is the question. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance around these topics so that companies do not find themselves in trouble. That can be found here. Employers are permitted to take employees temperatures as well as conduct a screening through a questionnaire, but it must be done consistently. What is not permitted is only taking the temperature of certain people because there were rumors that they were at a large group gathering, or something of that sort. We recommend having a policy and plan around temperature testing and screening that is owned by a team member of group of team members that ensure it is administered and followed consistently. We have both a candidate and employee screening questionnaire available and can work with you to set up a policy applicable to your small business. What is also not permitted is anti-body testing in the employment decision making process, so please be mindful of that as this pandemic continues and this type of testing becomes more common.
· Enforcement of wearing masks in the workplace - If part of your return to the workplace plan requires that employees wear masks (and it should be), this requirement must be enforced, reinforced, and consistently applied to all employees. It may also be required by the State, County or City as well. If an employee refuses to wear the mask at work when it has been established as a policy, have a conversation with them to explain the why behind the policy and hear what they have to say. An employee that is deliberately not wearing a mask or following any other of the return to work health standards policy may be a violation of safety standards and be followed through with corrective action based on your company policy.
· Employee support and level of comfort - On top of all of the things that we just went through, how do you balance the varying comfort levels of each employee coming back into the workplace? It takes empathy in leadership as well as transparency in communication to help support employees through their return to work process. We recently posted on our social media channels a picture that has been circulating the internet that is a great way to help ease employee’s minds so that they can identify their comfort level for others.
At Employers Advantage LLC we understand that this is a lot to keep up with and can be overwhelming. That is why we are here. To support small businesses and their employees. We can help you through this.