Post-COVID-19 Return to Work Considerations

Reopening is not necessarily returning to normalcy. Successful companies will need to consider possible modification of standard business practices in the post-COVID-19 workplace related to human resources as well as the legal environment. Effective communication of protocols and policies should be established, employee concerns deserve serious attention, and employers should remain cognizant of any legal obligations to staff.

Below, FH+H attorneys offer some considerations on processes and procedures involved in returning to work. For specific guidance related to your business, contact FH+H Partner Jack White.

 

Determine Desired Work Environment Before Resuming Business

  • Reach out to your workforce to gain insight on possible concerns

  • Determine the critical workforce to support business operations

  • Determine your target re-opening date and methodology (i.e. phased return, flexible or staggered scheduling, etc.)

 

Review Existing Policies & Create New Policies

  • Determine new COVID-19-related legal requirements

  • Review essential travel policy and create guidance on encouraging communication regarding personal travel

  • Review telework policy

  • Ensure Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) compliance by prominently displaying the FFCRA Employee Rights Poster in the workplace

  • Comply with applicable regulations on mandatory breaks and lunch breaks

  • Obtain an electronic acknowledgment of new and revised policies prior to re-opening

 

Establish Communication and Emergency Preparedness Plans

  • Where an employee has been infected with COVID-19, maintain the privacy considerations of the infected employee, while reporting potential exposure and/or confirmed cases to the general employee population
  • Review or adopt an emergency preparedness policy

 

Revise Re-Hire & New Hire Practices

  • Issue a letter for offering return to work clearly stating position and pay details considering possible PPP loan forgiveness provision under CARES Act
  • Follow EEOC Guidance during any talent acquisition efforts
  • Consider re-running background checks for previously furloughed or laid off employees; Before doing so, be sure that you have a valid authorization for a background check on file

 

Think Through Compensation, Benefits, and Leave Issues

  • Track employee leave and ensure proper documentation is collected for FFCRA leave
  • Verify employee classifications (i.e. full-time, part-time)
  • Reconsider salary reductions, if occurred during COVID-19 remote operations
  • Ensure FFCRA leave is correctly applied and processed
  • Determine the status of health plans, cafeteria plans, and fringe benefits
  • Communicate retirement benefits emergency withdrawals and loan provisions

 

Be Cognizant of Anti-Discrimination Policies

  • Remind your supervisory staff that discrimination on the basis of any protected class (federal or state level) is prohibited
  • Consider training for supervisory staff for response, reporting obligations, and comments related to COVID-19

 

Monitor Employee Interactions in Workspace

  • Encourage employees to use technology platforms like email, telephone, instant messaging, etc., for internal workplace correspondence
  • Instruct employees not to use or share other employees’ workspaces or equipment
  • Identify any nonessential in-person meetings so they may be canceled or postponed; consider video or conference calls for essential meetings
  • Revise seating arrangements for employees who may work out of a shared office space or in a cubicle environment

 

Focus on High Traffic Areas

  • Post social distancing reminders in high traffic areas
  • Consider rearranging the layout of lunch or cafeteria spaces and/or implementing a quota of persons in those areas to be compliant with social distancing guidelines
  • Consider rearranging the layout of waiting rooms, staggering visitor meetings, and implementing an office visitor quota
  • For direct client-facing employees (i.e. front desk receptionists) who receive office visitors or clients, consider placing a social distancing floor sign and/or floor marker at least 6 feet away from their workspace
  • Advise employees to not congregate in work rooms, kitchens, pantries, copier rooms or other areas where people socialize

 

Address Safety Concerns

  • Observe the OSHA General Duty Clause while creating and addressing safety protocols
  • Schedule an office deep-clean prior to re-opening location(s)
  • Create clean desk policies that allow surfaces to be properly cleaned daily, and update facility maintenance contracts to ensure these steps are taken
  • Consider whether your workforce would benefit from the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Decide on a possible temperature screening method (self-reported, verified via a doctor’s fitness for duty letter, or administered on employer premises)
  • Create and publish shared equipment procedures (for printers, copiers, fax machines, etc.)
  • Share guidance from landlord regarding protective measures on building premises
  • Decide on procedures for outside visitors and deliveries

 

Consider the Collective Bargaining Environment Under the NLRA

  • Remember, the NLRA addresses collective bargaining, not just unions
  • Determine obligations to bargain when implementing changes to mandatory bargaining subjects such as wages and benefits
  • Determine whether it is necessary to add a force majeure clause into any collective bargaining agreement
  • Review existing no-strike clauses to ensure continued work during future infectious disease outbreaks
  • Determine obligations for hazard pay

 

Stay Informed

  • Continue to monitor government resources for new information
  • Check your local, county, and state sources for additional and up-to-date guidelines surrounding COVID-19

 

For specific guidance on best practices for your business, please contact Jack White at [email protected] or by dialing (703) 590-1234.

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