With more relaxation of federal, state, and local guidelines when it comes to businesses re-opening, many small businesses are looking for best practices to return to work. Though there are plenty of industry specific as well as state and local requirements that must be individually followed, the below strategies can be particularly helpful for businesses looking to get back to running a successful business in the COVID-19 landscape:
Officially ending furloughs and notifying your workforce:
- Determine which employees you will be bringing back to your business and at what capacity. Now is the time to evaluate your work staff and revisit salaries and responsibilities.
- Previous employees who are determined to not have a position in your business reopening due to COVID-19 related impact should be notified of their general termination. Terminations should not be based on factors that can lead back to discrimination or retaliation. Reasons for termination based on COVID-19 impact should be documented.
- Employees who are brought back to work should be provided with a Furlough Recall Letter. This letter should outline the terms of their recall in its entirety and should give the employee the option to accept or decline the new terms of employment. Here is a sample letter for guidance.
- Update your payroll provider, insurance, and benefits providers on employees who come back to work and any changes to their pay or general employment status.
- Train your employees on changes to policies, procedures and general job tasks. Given the furlough it also helps to re-train employees on their previous responsibilities.
Returning employees to work and revisiting your policies:
- Make sure that you have the new FFCRA poster in a highly trafficked employee area or distribute it to all employees.
- If applicable establish a formal telecommuting or work from home agreement policy for any employees working from home in any capacity.
- Continually review federal, state, local and industry guidelines to ensure that you are adhering to the safe standards of reopening your business.
- When possible bring employees back to work incrementally. Consider bringing people back to a physical location in waves in order to ease tensions of a larger group setting.
- If all employees are essential to bring back to the physical location at once, try creating shifts if possible to lessen risk of exposure. For example: one week on, one week off.
- If someone is able to work from home in a partial or full time capacity, consider allowing them to do so as a best practice.
- Give employees a Welcome Back Letter stating new policies and safeguards in place.
Promote and enforce social distancing and good employee hygiene:
- Put health and safety posters inside and outside the business location. These posters should serve as best practice reminders for employees, customers and visitors.
- Create an environment where employees can work independently or within safe or protected distance from one another if possible. Move workstations 6 feet apart as an example.
- Create a safe environment for visitors or customers if applicable. Limit the amount of non-employees entering the workplace and create a layout where non-employees maintain a safe distance from employees and other non-employees. An example would be marking 6 feet standing zones or limiting the amount of people in the location.
- Require facial coverings and/or provide them to your employees.
- Discourage handshaking and/or general physical interactions.
- Provide hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies, tissues and open receptacles throughout the workplace.
- Encourage regular stops for employees to wash their hands and sanitize the work area.
- Stagger breaks and remind employees to maintain their distance even during breaks or non-work hours.
- When possible have doors within the workplace open to reduce general touching.
Enforce Policies of those who are symptomatic or been diagnosed or exposed to COVID-19:
- Implement the use of taking temperatures to ensure that employees are not entering the workplace with a fever (temperature of 100.4 or higher). This can be administered by those in the office or have employees conduct their own readings at home and attest to their health.
- Ensure a temporal thermometer is being used and the person administering the test is maintaining a safe distance and utilizing full protective equipment.
- Make sure that employees maintain a 6 foot distance prior to being tested and entering the jobsite.
- Individually screen employees in a private setting and keep communications and results confidential.
- Those who exhibit a fever should not be allowed to enter the workplace. General next steps should be discussed such as the employee reaching out to their doctor, getting tested, and following CDC guidelines.
- Require any employee that is symptomatic, or tested positive within the last 14 days, to remain at home and not enter the workplace. If the employee can work from home they may do so, or they may be eligible for leave.
- Require that employees who have come in direct contact with COVID-19 (ie. through a family member), stay home per the CDC recommendations.
- Require any employee that experiences symptoms of COVID-19 or becomes ill during the work shift to go home immediately. All areas should be fully cleaned or sanitized that the employee came into contact with.
This can be a trying time for all businesses, keep in mind “We Are all in this Together!”
- ThinkHR, 2020, www.thinkhr.com
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2020, www.cdc.gov
- K&L Gates, U.S. Employer Checklist, April 29, 2020, www.klgates.com