Managing Employee Safety & Risk

Just like last week, I have rewritten this blog three times as new information is communicated from our local, state and federal leaders. I decided it was time to pause and publish with the caveat that information shared may and most likely will change even by this afternoon. 

Over the past three days, I have, via videoconferencing, presented information on resources for managing employees through this difficult time.  Identifying the vendors and HR experts you will need to stay in touch with frequently during this period is a good first step.  Developing and executing on a communication plan for your employees is the second best step.   Thirdly, managing stress will better allow all of us to evaluate our options clearly and make better decisions.

State and federal government resources for employees and employers .  Each day and even each hour brings new information on possible state and federal government resources.  We have and will continue to confirm the accuracy of new information and will be updating our clients as we deem this information reliable. 

Mental health and medical benefits.  Communicating with your employees the details of their medical and mental health benefits and ensuring they understand access, coverage and options is a priority.  

  • Rather than sending out multiple emails or links in a random manner, we advise pulling together the information into a FAQ document in a shared folder or portal that can be updated as needed. 
  • Include in this document instructions for accessing the website portals of your benefit carriers, creating a user name and password, as well as the phone numbers for contacting them directly.  
  • Benefit coverage is changing rapidly to ensure that, regardless of the types of medical plans, co-pays and deductibles, testing will be covered and everyone infected with the virus will receive treatment.   
  • EAP, your Employee Assistance Program. Stress and anxiety are high for all of us right now.   We cannot deny it. So, communicate access details to employees just as you are for other healthcare coverages. 

Work schedule changes.  The CDC, HHS, and WH have all called for a reduction of close contact with others. Excluded from this are essential jobs and industries that are being determined on a local and state level so check with your authorities first.  If you are reducing risks while continuing to provide goods and services, you have the opportunity to change schedules, working hours and locations.   Telecommuting may be an option for some but not others.  Again, once a decision is made, on-going communication with employees is essential. 

Workplace Safety.  The rules are changing rapidly. Last Wednesday, employers could not take an employee’s temperature due to ADA rules.  This past Wednesday, employers were advised not to take employees’ temperatures due to asymptomatic individuals who could be carrying the virus. As of yesterday, the EEOC announced employers ARE allowed to take temperatures, send employees home and even has created a set of rules for candidates including:

  • An employer may take an applicant’s temperature as part of a post-offer, pre-employment medical examination.
  • An employer may screen applicants for symptoms of COVID-19 after making a conditional job offer.
  • An employer may delay the start date of an applicant who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it.
  • An employer may withdraw a job offer when it needs the applicant to start immediately but the individual has COVID-19 or symptoms of it. Based on current CDC guidance, the individual cannot safely enter the workplace, and therefore the employer may withdraw the job offer. 

Additionally, OSHA rules allow employees to refuse to work due to life threatening situations of hazard. And if it is known an employee, customer or vendor has contracted the virus, the employer has the responsibility to communicate that information to employees and to take steps to reduce the risk of transmittal by cleaning and disinfecting the workplace. 

Paid Leave. A new federal law will provide paid leave to employees who miss work for certain coronavirus-related reasons. At this time, we are waiting on guidance and interpretation from the Department of Labor and SHRM. 

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