HR Plans During Crisis

Topics include:

I have rewritten this blog post every day for the past three days as new information is being shared by business partners and government agencies and finally realized this quickly moving and fluid situation will continue to evolve so it is best to send this out with the caveat that information may change.  We will be updating our blog and email distributions more frequently during this time.  

As the realities of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and subsequent disruptions to everyday life are beginning to set in, we have received emails from partners including Microsoft, Google, Lyft, and WeWork, with assurances of protocols they have put into place so that employees are being supported with training on safe behavior and other measures to provide the best services to customers. 

We have been in contact with health insurance carriers including BCBS, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare on coverage options for full funded, level funded and self-funded plans. Some have determined deadlines for opting into extended coverage. I will be addressing this later in this blog post. 

Disability insurance carriers have reached out with coverage options and protocols for filing claims for those affected by illness during this time.

SHRM, Society of Human Resources Management, has hosted a webinar with the assistant director of the CDC, Center for Disease Control, Jay C. Butler, MD, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases earlier this week where we learned more on How Businesses, Workers and Workplaces Should Respond to COVID-19. 

Basically, everyone is communicating on an on-going basis. If you are a business owner or non-profit executive struggling over how best to respond to the current situation, it is time to dust off your crisis and communication management plans and activate them.

Having a plan to determine next best steps for your employees, customers, and constituents is crucial during any disruptions whether they be weather related, technology failures or as in the case now, global pandemic. Yes, the, WHO, World Health Organization, has determined and announced this. 

Don’t have a communication plan for employees?   Here is where to start:

  • Your employees are your most valuable asset. Two-way communication is crucial now and into the future. Decide how to best communicate through a variety of methods, including newsletters, your company intranet, emails, an incoming phone number, text messaging and other communication tools. If you have employees with disabilities or special needs, ask them what assistance, if any, they require.
  • If you have an HR team, they have most likely already begun a plan for communicating.  We are currently in communication with our clients and are providing information on next best steps depending on needs of each industry sector. Please feel free to reach out to us via email as we are all responding quickly to our clients’ needs.
  • Determine the content of your information to employees: 
    • They will want to know whether work schedules are affected and if so, for how long. 
    • They will want to know if they can opt-out of business travel and whether they can choose to work from home.
    • They will want to know if vacation, sick and other paid time off (PTO) benefits will be applied. 
    • If you currently have an unlimited PTO, we recommend you reach out to us sooner rather than later to discuss your options. 
    • They will want to understand their insurance coverage for medical, prescription drugs, and in the case of illness, disability payments.
  • Determine your extended team contacts, meaning, who are the employment related vendors on your team and how and when you will be communicating with them for updated information. New information is incoming daily at this point so being in the know is critical. We will be providing our clients with updates as frequently as we can. 
  • Determine your medical insurance coverage. There is at least one carrier we are aware of has decided plans other than fully funded must opt into coverage by March 31st. The carriers are sending out emails frequently and having this information in writing is preferable to attempting to call them. We are available to speak with you regarding your status. Please contact us via email so we can schedule a time to speak with you. 
  • Determine your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) coverage.  This could be a stand-alone program.  If you have medical and/or disability coverage, your carrier may have bundled this into your programs. There will be a pamphlet and/or wallet sized card with information for a toll free number and a website. If you are unsure of your coverage, again, reach out to your benefits broker or HR consultant. We are available to speak with you about this. 
  • Determine your FMLA and ADA requirements.  Again, your HR team can provide you assistance with these issues.

We will be sending out a list of FAQs for specific questions we are fielding in the near future, so if you have any urgent questions, please do reach out to us directly. 

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.