Supporting Your Employees Through the Covid-19 Crisis

Supporting Your Employees Through the Covid-19 Crisis

Are you finding it difficult to keep up with the daily changes related to the Covid-19 pandemic?  It seems like keeping on top of the latest developments is hard enough but keeping our employees comfortable and focused during this difficult time is a challenge like we’ve never seen.

Normally HR work is both an art and a science.  There are rules and regulations to follow, but most importantly, there’s finding unique ways to apply them in a manner consistent with the culture of your organization and employee relations philosophy.

Dealing with the Covid-19 crisis is like that on steroids.  We have new regulations getting passed almost daily, challenges with keeping employees calm, and new situations that just a few weeks ago didn’t even exist.

We’re doing our best to stay ahead of the new developments and wanted to share some best practices with you.  Let’s start with the basics:

  • Remote work: If your work allows for this, providing employees the opportunity to work remotely is a terrific option.  You can and should require accountability during this time and develop ways to replace the incidental communications that naturally occur in the workplace with more structured approaches.
  • Social distancing: If your work requires employees on site, then plan for ways for employees to keep separated.  The CDC recommends maintaining a distance of six feet between people.  It also recommends sanitizing common surfaces on a regular basis.
  • Employee privacy: As much as employees will want to know the health status of an employee who is potentially affected by the virus or is exhibiting symptoms, HIPAA privacy requirements still apply.
  • Michigan unemployment:  On Monday, the Governor issued an executive order providing unemployment benefits for those employees who have family care responsibilities related to Covid-19, employees who are sick, quarantined or immunocompromised, and public first responders who become ill or are quarantined.  You can read the details of the executive order here:  https://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/0,9309,7-387-90499_90640-521770–,00.html
  • Family First Coronavirus Response Act: Passed yesterday, and effective in 15 days, this new Federal law extends Family Medical Leave Coverage to employees of all organizations with 500 or fewer employees who have been employed at least 30 days.  It also broadens coverage to employees who are off work to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed due to a public emergency.  It provides for:
    • Unpaid leave for the first 10 days – although employees can use available paid leave from their employer.
    • Interim compensation for the next 10 days of up to $200 per day in lost wages that is not less than two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay.
    • Additional funding for state unemployment agencies so that the individual states can provide more unemployment benefits.
    • Details on how this will work are still forthcoming. To read more, the new law is available here:  https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6201/text

As leaders, we need to stay abreast of these significant changes while remembering that our existing employment laws, including the Family Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, still apply.  We also need to be up front with our employees that the situation is dynamic and will likely continue to change.  Being understanding and sticking to our values is going to be of critical importance as we navigate this unchartered territory.

Need help determining the best approach or responding to employee questions?  We’re here to help.

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