Why Employer Responsibility is more important in this age of Coronavirus crisis COVID-19. There is no longer any such thing as “business as usual” in this time of the pandemic. Between leading a newly-remote workforce and widespread disruptions in supply chains, corporate compliance may be the last thing on the mind of leadership.
Don’t let your business be impacted more than needed by the current Coronavirus. Centauri Law Group, P.C. specializes in assessing risk versus avoiding overreaction.
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- Lending in a Time of Crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has economic and social repercussions that will extend far beyond the time when we can once again open our doors for business. Having best practices in place will ensure businesses weather this crisis and future ones successfully. There are a few key points employers should keep in mind.
- Stay Abreast of New Laws
In response to the COVID-10 pandemic, Congress passed two laws that directly impact employers. One is the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” which requires certain employers to offer paid leave to employees affected by the coronavirus. Depending on the reason for and length of the leave, the employer may have to pay the employee’s regular rate or a reduced rate. The second law, which garnered more publicity is the CARES Act. Under CARES, many taxpayers will receive a one-time payment from the Federal Government. The Act also broadens the eligibility for unemployment benefits. As this crisis continues, it seems likely that both states and the Federal government will pass additional measures to protect individuals and the economy. In times of crisis, the laws can change quickly and new regulations are adopted and implemented by the minute, it seems. Keeping current on the laws that affect your business is crucial.
- Planning for the Aftermath
No doubt the workplace and the market will change once the crisis is over. And while businesses will face many of the same challenges, each business will need to respond in their own way. This is where trusted advisors and consultants can be of assistance. It might seem risky to hire outside help, but it could very well by the difference between failure and success. A trusted advisor will take the time to understand what makes your business unique and develop plans and strategies that are aligned with your company’s mission and values.
- Keeping Stakeholders Informed
There is much uncertainty about what the world will be like in the coming days, weeks and months. Not only do your employees have questions and concerns, your clients, customers, and shareholders likely do as well. Some companies have created specific taskforces to address pandemic-specific issues and many have drastically changed the way they do business. It is important that businesses be clear and consistent (to the extent possible) about any pandemic-related changes, in addition to ensuring they are meeting the needs of their stakeholders.
What tools can an Employer offer its employees to deal with this current crisis
- Flexible Working Hours
Most of the United States is under some kind of stay-at-home / shelter-in-place order and many employers have transitioned successfully to remote working. But that is only part of the equation. With children home from school and many services curtailed, employers should also be flexible on the hour’s employees must be “on” (and “off”) duty. With this flexibility, however, also comes risk in terms of compliance with overtime and other labor laws. Employers should consult with an attorney familiar with those laws to ensure that they are not trading one problem for another one.
- Clear Guidance on Assignments
Clear communication becomes even more important as workers are doing their jobs with little or no supervision. If an employee is unclear on the scope or nature of the work, this can lead to friction and frustration on both sides, in addition to wasted time and effort. To avoid this, managers and supervisors must be as specific as possible on the scope and timing of assignments. Providing clear guidance ensures that resources are not wasted, projects are finished efficiently and minimize the risks of misunderstanding. All of this should be done keeping in mind the employer’s legal obligations.
- Open and Regular Communication
Employers must communicate assignments clearly, but they should also be open and welcoming to feedback from employees. This is especially important during a pandemic when normal channels and workflows have been disrupted. Companies should explore ways to enhance communication and use tools like Slack channels or other software to make it easy for teams to share information. With many workers feeling isolated, companies can also use these types of platforms to build a community. Open communication has man benefits, but it can have downsides as well. When we are speaking in person with others, they can read our body language and other non-verbal cues, which are lost entirely in written communication and limited in virtual conferencing. From an employment law perspective, off-the-cuff written communications can be a minefield for misunderstandings. Employers need to ensure that managers and supervisors are trained in best practices to minimize the risks that come with new forms of communication.
- Managing Personnel Issues in a Crisis
Many workers are impacted directly or indirectly during this time. Some may be sick, others may be caring for sick relatives or busy with other pandemic-related demands on their time. Any of these situations will impact employee performance. Other people, however, may be underperforming, missing shifts or doing sub-par work for other less acceptable reasons.
As an employer, it can be hard to tell the difference, yet it is important to be able to distinguish the causes. The new laws and regulations, on top of the existing labor laws, mean employers must be extra cautious before taking disciplinary action against an employee. As an employer, you need to know the proper steps to take to protect the business from claims by disgruntled former employees.
- How can you protect your business in employee-related litigation
With an increasing number of layoffs, it is likely that there will be an uptick in employment claims against businesses. With the right planning and procedures, businesses can lessen their exposure. Now is a good time to review employment policies and provide adequate training to decision-makers to ensure that procedures are followed and that there is adequate documentation to support employment decisions.