The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot in a very short time—from simple things like what it means to go grocery shopping to larger, more challenging responsibilities like running a business.
As Hawaii businesses ramp up operations and welcome employees back to work, there are some new HR compliance issues all employers need to know in the wake of COVID-19.
This article summarizes new and updated workplace policies, protocols, and procedures to help local businesses reopen and thrive.
New or Revised Workplace Policies
The coronavirus pandemic has brought new legislation that should be reflected in workplace policies (and employee handbooks), if applicable to your business. We’ve also listed a few—not required, but worth considering—revisions or additions to make, if you haven’t already done so.
Emergency Paid Leave
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires most employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide employees with Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and/or Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFMLA). The provisions of the FFCRA sunset on December 31, 2020; however, employers may want to update leave policies, ensure the proper Notice is posted, and train managers on how to correctly process this type of leave, especially if payroll tax credits will be claimed.
COBRA Election Deadlines Extended
A new rule, aimed at assisting employees who have lost health insurance in the wake of COVID-19, extends deadlines to elect and pay for COBRA coverage. Note that there are still some unanswered questions regarding how insurance carriers will handle the changes, such as employer notification requirements regarding the loosened deadlines.
Remote Work and Other Flexible Work Arrangements
To slowly and safely bring employees back to work, employers may want to consider offering (or continuing to offer) flexible work arrangements. This could mean extending remote work options or introducing a variety of other work arrangements, like part-time work or flextime. If conducive to business needs, it’s imperative to update your written policy, communicate any changes to employees, and manage expectations.
Download: Remote Work Policy Guidance (PDF)
Employee Health Screening for COVID-19
This may not be applicable, feasible, or necessary for every business, but the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has given employers the green light to screen employees for COVID-19. This includes taking temperatures, asking questions about COVID-19 related symptoms (or requiring self-reporting), and testing for COVID-19. If this makes sense for your company, be sure to draft a policy around it and train your front-line supervisors and managers on any internal protocols.
Download: COVID-19 Employee Health Screening Procedures (DOCX)
New or Revised Procedures and Protocols
To help keep employees and customers safe, businesses may need to implement new or revised procedures. Here are some mandates from official sources as well as some other considerations to make, depending on what’s right for your industry.
OSHA Recordkeeping for COVID-19 Illnesses
If an employee contracts COVID-19, new guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all employers to make work-related determinations. If there is a strong likelihood than an employee contracted COVID-19 at work, employers will need to record it on their OSHA Form 300.
Proper Workplace Signage
Under the State of Hawaii Seventh Summary Proclamation Related to COVID-19 Emergency, all essential businesses are required to have posted signage informing employees and customers that they should:
- Wear a CDC recommended face covering while in the business
- Avoid entering the business if they do not feel well
- Maintain a six-foot distance from one another
- Refrain from shaking hands or engaging in unnecessary physical contact
Need signage for your workplace? Check out these free, printable signs for reopening, available for download right now.
Cleaning, Sanitation, and PPE Use
One of the best front-line defenses against spreading COVID-19 is almost the most basic: proper cleaning and sanitation. Whether its increasing cleaning frequencies of common work areas, encouraging proper handwashing and sanitization, or requiring employees to wear PPE, get a good grasp on what new procedures or protocols employees will be expected to adhere to while at work, and make sure to communicate those expectations to all.
Business Meetings and Travel
Though restrictions on group gatherings and travel have relaxed, it’s worth figuring out what it means for your workplace. Will employees still be able to hold in-person meetings? If so, are they limited in group size? What about travel for work? And subsequently, does the company have any guidelines or requirements related to travel for personal reasons?
Planning for the Future
More than half of the companies around the world (51%) have no plans or protocols in place to combat a global emergency like the coronavirus, according to a new study. But if our experience has taught us anything, it’s that the time to prepare for an emergency is before it happens.
Now is a good time to sit down and collect insights on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected business. What did you do that worked well, and what did not work so well? What areas were you severely unprepared for? In what areas do you see true resilience in your team and business? In what ways will the business need to pivot in order to remain successful and sustainable in the short- and long-term?
With new guidance changing frequently, be sure to as always check with official government agencies and authorities, like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), State of Hawaii Department of Health, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice, and reader should consult with their advisor or counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material.