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Keeping Employees and Customers Safe: Returning to Work During COVID-19 Pandemic’s New Regulations

Across the country, businesses are returning to work from the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Today, several counties in Utah are now in the Green. More than ½ of the state is still in Yellow (most of the Wasatch front) and Salt Lake City is still in Orange. Coronavirus impact to your company continues to require adapting the workplace to keep your employees & customers safe as well as to comply with regulations. Because this is a developing event – regulations from federal, state, and local governments change frequently.Companies will want to continue to evaluate the impact of these changes on a regular basis.

Source: June 19, 2020

The State of Utah website tells us that our confirmed cases are on the rise. Along to Wasatch front many were expecting to go green last week, but we find we are still mostly in Yellow partially due to this increase in cases. As you determine your plan of action, you will want to consider the case counts in the state and your area in addition to Color-Coded Guidance from the State of Utah.

Source: June 19, 2020

Utah Color Coded Guidance

We all know that frequent hand washing, maintain 6-foot social distance, and wearing masks is the best way to fight coronavirus. The State of Utah now has several posters, signs, and flyers available for individuals and business to help guide you on your company’s strategic return to work plan.

Counties in Yellow can have gatherings up to 50 while face coverings, social distance, and frequent handwashing are still highly recommended. Pools, entertainment events, sports competitions, and churches can open under certain guidelines. All Businesses can open, including restaurants with a plan. Work arrangements are still encouraged to be flexible and keep working from home when possible.

Once Counties move to Green, they will be able to have larger gatherings, less emphasis on distance between families in public, and a return to work with continued social distancing or face masks if not possible.

Yellow Phase Flyer

Disaster Plan

One thing that we have learned from Coronavirus is that most companies did not previously have an adequate disaster plan. Don’t feel bad: most of us couldn’t have seen what was coming. There are people who study and work regularly in this area, but most of the country only had slight ideas of what could happen. Now we know better. The most important thing is what will you do with the information you have? Developing strong policies for your company and employees is an ongoing process.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

Here are some Business and Policy resources I think may be helpful for you

· Employer resources State of Utah

Employee Policies

Once you have a basic policy in place, you will need to consider updating some of your employee policies and resources. How will you handle screening at work with employees and customers? What if there is an outbreak?

Here are some resources that may help your employees:

Contact me for Return to Work Letter, and Face Coverings for Employees Policy Sample

Returning from Layoff, Leave, and Furlough

As you have employees return to work from leave, furlough and layoffs you will need to consider how you enroll them back into benefits. Don’t promise coverage immediately to an employee until you have verified it is possible and confirmed with legal counsel that you are not outside of any other employer regulations. I can help advise you in some of these areas, but for full legal advice, please consult legal counsel.

  • Documentation is still very important with all types of leave. When going out on leave and coming back. Maintain good records.

  • Non-Discrimination: Make sure that you are handling each case the same. Although some situations may vary slightly, the basic policy should be the same. Have a formal policy in place, and make sure all your managers follow it. If any employee is treated differently, they may have a case for discrimination, even during a pandemic.

  • Waiting Periods for Benefits: you may be tempted to offer benefits immediately upon return to work. You will need to consider your current company policy, as well as if the carrier plan document will allow this to be waived. Depending on the situation, this may be allowed.

  • The ACA and Variable Hour Employees: Even during the pandemic, you must still comply with the Affordable Care Act. Consider the affect the leave and return to work will have on your employees that are considered Variable Hour Employees and are either in the measurement or stability period. Federal penalties still apply for no offer of coverage, and unaffordable coverage.

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