Returning employees to the workplace during and after the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be as simple as announcing a reopening or return-to-the-workplace date and carrying on business as usual. Not only will many workplaces be altered initially, but some changes may also be longterm, even beyond the imagined “finish line” of a widely available vaccine or treatment.
The details of each employer’s plan to return will look different, but most employers will need to understand and start preparing for now for these 10 Key Issues:
1. Workplace Safety
Employers have to ensure their workplaces are as safe as they can be. Employees and customers alike may have fears of returning to business as usual; preparing for and communicating how safety is a top priority will allay fears and increase brand loyalty.
2. Recall Procedures
Plan for how and when employees will return to work or to the worksite to create an organized and controlled approach. All employees returning on the same day at the same time could be overwhelming and possibly unsafe.
3. Employee Benefits
Whether employees remained on the employer’s benefits plans or not, certain notices or actions may be required to stay compliant. Communicating these changes to employees should be done as soon as possible.
Many employers may have made compensation changes during the crisis thus far, and others may need to make them in order to reopen. How the disruption has affected compensation policies going forward will also need to be reviewed and communicated to affected staff.
5. Remote work
Telecommuting may have proven to work well during the pandemic for some employers and employees. Using it not only as a short-term emergency tool to survive the next year but also as a permanent work/life balance and cost-saving measure should be considered.
Establishing a clear communication plan will allow employees and customers to understand how the organization plans to reopen or reestablish business processes.
7. New-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.
8. Policy changes
It is no longer business as usual, and employers will likely need to update or create policies to reflect the new normal.
9. Business continuity plans
Employers will have learned valuable lessons regarding their business continuity plans, or lack thereof, during the past months. Now is the time to review and revise the plan to prepare for future emergencies.
Employers with unionized workforces may have additional considerations, including:
- Determining obligations to bargain when implementing changes to mandatory bargaining subjects such as wages and benefits
- Identifying the need to add a force majeure clause into a collective bargaining agreement to protect the employer from contractual obligations during an event that is beyond the employer’s control.
- Reviewing existing no-strike clauses to ensure continued work during future infectious disease outbreaks.
- Determining obligations for hazard pay under Section 502 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) during “abnormally dangerous conditions.”
You can dowload a detailed checklist below.