The employment attorneys at Quinlivan & Hughes wanted to share some information and insights from an employer’s perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. Please know the leadership team at Quinlivan & Hughes is navigating this crisis as well and our attorneys stand ready to advise and represent your interests throughout its duration.
The EEOC has issued guidance you should read about what rights employees and employers have during a pandemic. The guidance can be found on the EEOC website. In addition, the CDC has suggestions for employers on its website here. Of course, these precautions and safety practices are important during any cold and flu season, but especially poignant now. Another trusted source of information about the virus is https://www.ready.gov/ (click on the “human coronavirus” link once there).
It is reassuring to know there is reliable information available to guide our actions.
If you haven’t already done so, you should convene a small committee in your organization to be the COVID-19 “planners.” No one really knows how this pandemic is going to turn out, but the more you spend time now brainstorming possible scenarios and plan for absences, shut-downs, etc., the better off you’ll be. You should also have your employees feel free to make suggestions about how to keep your doors “open” yet help prevent the spread of the virus. For example, some employers are issuing “no travel” and “no handshaking” policies; others are allowing employees to work remotely.
Our staff recently invoked a “use your own pen” policy. Also, our attorneys all have remote access so their work can continue from anywhere, and we are exploring options to make sure other remote access scenarios are available for staff, and clients, as necessary. Finally, if you are adopting new policies be mindful of whether you want them to be temporary or permanent. If, for example, you want to offer additional PTO to employees who are diagnosed with the virus, make it clear whether this additional PTO is a one-time deal or has a broader scope.
Be the voice of reason and assurance. Your employees need you to be calm, yet prepared and lead them and your organization through this turmoil. Also, be sensitive. A lot of energy is being channeled into this pandemic, yet there are members of your workforce who deal daily with other health concerns and challenges. Let your employees know you care and are prepared to deal with this crisis as it develops. Our office recently sent out a communication making staff aware of the resources that are currently available and encouraging them to share their suggestions, and any particular concerns, with the appropriate leadership personnel. You don’t have to have all of the answers; you just need to assure your employees that you’re monitoring the situation and will do what you can to get your organization, and its members, through it as safely as possible.