Employers everywhere are struggling with how to respond to coronavirus COVID-19. It’s not just effecting our employee’s health, it’s effecting how our businesses operate, our bottom lines and has small business owners all over the world concerned if their business is going to survive.
“Think about restructuring how your business operates going forward…”
In this communication, Blue Chip Benefits addresses where employers efforts should be focused besides the obvious hygiene practices, prevention measures, limiting travel and social distancing they are currently practicing.
- The first thing employers should do is create or review their safety and emergency action plans to ensure they include infection disease protocols that are compliant with OSHA and health and safety regulations.
- Employers should create or update their written communicable illness policy and response plan to include not only coronaviruses but also other communicable diseases that can be easily transmitted, i.e, Streptococcus, viral hepatitis, tuberculosis and the like. The policy can include items such as:
- Illnesses or exposure to illnesses that must be disclosed by the employee to the employer. Be cognizant to include all communicable illnesses and not illnesses that could affect only a particular protected class of individuals.
- Include under what conditions an employee will be sent home and what action must take place for the employee to return to work.
- Create a disaster preparedness plan. The plan should include how the employer is going to keep their employees informed and safeguarded while interacting with clients and vendors, and still conduct business.
- If applicable, create a plan for working remotely. Include items such as expected work hours, timeframe for responding to client emails/voice mails, etc. Companies can require that work not be done via public Internet connections or with personal computers to help ensure data of clients is kept safe.
- Be prepared to “report.” If work-related, employers are responsible for reporting COVID-19 illnesses to OSHA that result in a fatality or an in-patient hospitalization. Work-related is defined as an event or exposure in the work environment that either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness. If the illness involves signs or symptoms that surfaced at work but were not associated with a work event, the employer is not responsible for recording. If the fatality related to COVID-19 occurs after 30 days from the workplace incident leading to the illness, the employer is not required to report. Employers are also not required to report if the in-patient hospitalization occurs after 24 hours from the workplace incident leading to the illness.
- Think about restructuring how your business operates going forward, as it may be some time before we can go back to business as usual. For example, if your employees can do their job from home, consider downsizing the size of your store/shop so you can reduce your rent.
- If employees are working from home, consider purchasing cyber insurance policies. With more people working from home, it’s almost guaranteed that cyber attacks are going to go up as well. (Blue Chip Benefits partners with a company we highly recommend who provides secure email solutions. You can access their site here: https://neocertified.com/ If you mention you were referred by Blue Chip Benefits, you will receive a discount on the service.)
- Lastly, we would like to mention that should you have an employee that contracts COVID-19, consider ways you can support them through FMLA, OSHA, lifestyle spending accounts, workers’ comp, new Federal rulings, and disability insurance that you may already have in place.
The duration and severity of our current pandemic is undetermined but that does not mean we should panic, rather businesses should be creating short and long-term plans of actions now, rooted in law and based upon common sense. To that end, we would like to supply you with resources to support these efforts:
- The Department of Labor has created a list of resources to help workers and employers as they deal with COVID-19. The list of resources can be accessed at https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus. Topics include:
- Workplace Safety
- Wages, Hours and Leave
- Unemployment Insurance Flexibilities
- Injured Federal Workers
- Other related news topics
- The federal government is allowing new options for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits related to COVID-19. For example, federal law allows states to pay benefits where:
- An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work
- An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over
- An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member
In addition, federal law does not require an employee to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.
States are beginning to issue details on their unemployment programs, including additional flexibility to those impacted by coronavirus. Some states require you file for unemployment benefits on the web. Some provide toll-free numbers or other ways to obtain assistance in filing. Below you can find links to state guidelines for Texas, Colorado and Missouri.
As always, feel free to reach out to Blue Chip Benefits at (888) 225.8244 or Team@BlueChipBG.com with any questions. We are here to support you!