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Three Keys to Working With Employees Returning From COVID-19 Closures


The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new world where questions related to the pandemic and its effects far outweigh the answers. In the employment world, there are a plethora of new issues that must be considered when re-opening your business or bringing employees back to work.

Here are three key issues to be mindful of as an employer.

Be Proactive

Before re-opening or bringing back your entire workforce, prepare your workplace in order to ensure your employees’ safety. Create concrete strategies to eliminate the risk of spreading COIVD-19 as much as possible. These strategies should include promoting hygiene, maximizing social distancing, and protocols for handling outbreaks of COVID-19 if, or when, they occur. Strategies should be documented and shared with all employees to attempt to alleviate any concerns employees may have about returning to the workplace.

Both the CDC and OSHA websites contain guidance on preparing a safe workplace for your employees to return to.

Evaluate each situation and employee individually

Each of your employees has unique health and family concerns that cannot be addressed with a “one size fits all” approach.

Take time to speak with each employee and address any concerns they may have. Everyone has dealt with additional stress since the beginning of the pandemic, some more than others. Listen to each employee’s concerns and address them individually. Some concerns may be specific and involve the employee’s personal health, the health of a household member, or a lack of childcare. Other employees may just have general fears of contracting COVID-19 by being exposed to the public.

Be sure to consider current local, state, and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), before making a decision about any particular employee. Some concerns, such as a lack of childcare, may be protected through laws like the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Other general concerns may not entitle an employee to refuse to return to work.

However, carefully consider the employee’s personal circumstances and weigh the pros and cons of requiring an employee to return to work before making that decision. If an employee is able to effectively able to work from home that may be the safest approach while the pandemic persists.

Be Flexible

Our understanding of COVID-19 changes regularly. Additionally, outbreaks occur in different parts of the country at different times.

A plan that works for your business today may have to be re-evaluated in light of new information or new circumstances in your community. Furthermore, an outbreak of COVID-19 in your workplace may force you to move to a contingency plan.

Understand that these are unique times that may call for unique solutions. Don’t be afraid to change your normal course of business during the pandemic. You may find that solutions you have to create during the pandemic will benefit your business in the future. Understand that eventually the pandemic will be over, and your business can then readapt to what will be the new normal.