As the world health community continues to closely monitor the Coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19 companies are wondering how this will impact their employees and business. At this time, no one truly knows how severe this outbreak will be, however, given the uncertainty of Coronavirus’s path, we recommend taking proactive steps in your workplace. This is not only to prevent the spread of illness but also to establish policies which define how you will handle long term illnesses.
Protect Yourself and Those Around You
First and foremost, ask your employees to assist in taking steps to reduce the transmission of communicable diseases in the workplace. Employees should be reminded of the following:
- Stay home when they are sick.
- Wash their hands frequently with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
- Cover their mouth with tissues whenever they sneeze or cough, and immediately discard used tissues in the trash. If a tissue is not available, use the “vampire sneeze” by sneezing or coughing into their elbow versus their hands.
- Avoid people who are sick.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces, including their phone, keyboards or remote.
Within the workplace, employers should take measures to routinely clean common surfaces like door handles, coffee pots or copy machines or possibly provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers throughout the workplace and in common areas. You may even elect to offer cleaning sprays or wipes for employees to use to disinfect objects that often get overlooked like their telephone, monitors and keyboards.
Alternate Work Options
This is also a good time to evaluate travel and determine if it is really necessary. Although it may not always be possible, encourage employees to use telephone or video conferencing versus traveling to a remote worksite – not only could this save the company money, but it could also prevent key employees from becoming sick and missing time. Furthermore, review which positions, if any, can work remotely. You may not have a policy that routinely allows work-from-home, but this could be something that your organization may want to consider, especially if someone does show symptoms of illness. Allowing employees to work from home may prevent the spread of illness through the department. Establishing a remote work program can be done by informing employees telecommuting will be considered on a case-by-case basis for positions with primary job duties that can be performed remotely.
Even with all these measures in place, it’s still very possible that employees will get sick. Take this opportunity to review your sick time or PTO policy and examine the option of granting additional time, or allowing employees to borrow time from next year, in the event of a serious health threat. Reminding your employees of the company’s sick or PTO policy is recommended because it is important employees understand these policies are designed for them to stay home for short-term illnesses. These policies are in place not only so the employee can stay home to get better, but also so they don’t spread their germs throughout the office. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that employees remain at home until they are fever free (100 degrees F or 37.8 degrees C) for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications. Also remind employees they should not report to work if they are experiencing symptoms such as fever (100 degrees F or 37.8 degrees C), cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills or fatigue. If you choose to send employees home who exhibit these symptoms, we would recommend advising your staff in advance that employees who report to work ill will be sent home in accordance with these health guidelines.
FMLA Guidelines and the WARN Act
Cornerstone also recommends familiarizing yourself with appropriate state or federal laws and your company’s policies concerning long term illnesses. If your organization has 50 or more employees FMLA guidelines prevail, but if your company falls under that threshold or certain employees do not yet qualify for FMLA, we recommend establishing a leave policy for employees who will be out longer than just a few days. Your policy should define whether the leave is paid or unpaid, how long the company will hold the employee’s job and how long the employee will be allowed to remain active on benefits.
In the event COVID-19 escalates so greatly that it impacts business operations or global commerce, you may be faced with temporary shut downs, layoffs or even permanent downsizing. Before making any decisions regarding layoffs, closures or terminations, familiarize yourself with laws that may protect employees in these instances like the WARN Act, which requires a minimum of 60 days’ notice in advance of plant closure or mass layoff. In addition to the federal WARN Act, there may be similar state or local laws defining notice requirements that must be adhered to.
We recommend establishing these preventative measures so that your organization has a procedure in place in advance of anyone getting ill.
For additional information, contact Bethany Holliday.
The Importance of Benefits
According to a recent survey, about one-third of all job seekers begin their search to find better pay and benefits. This not only indicates the importance of well-structured benefits when it comes to recruiting top talent, but also when it comes to retaining the talent you already have.
A great internship is a first step towards a successful career, and we are committed to giving college students real, valuable experience in a variety of fields through our hands-on summer internship program.
Our 2019 summer interns bring a variety of business and finance interests and skill sets with them, and we are so excited to help them grow over the next several weeks.
Courtney Long will be graduating in December with a major in Finance from the University of Central Missouri. She is from the suburbs south of Chicago.
Her long-term career goal is to someday own an investment property or to renovate a property – but before that time comes, she hopes to get a job in either the banking or insurance industry after graduation. She loves going on hikes, preferably in the mountains, but the Missouri Ozark mountains work just fine. She is excited to start working with such a large wonderful group of people!
We’re all familiar with the down-sides of cigarette and tobacco use – it increases health risks, raises medical costs, and it often lowers productivity in the workplace. It’s costly for the employer and the individual smoking, so many companies are implementing no-smoking policies and even minimizing the number of smokers they hire. As a risk management and human resources company, Cornerstone Insurance Group decided to weigh in on this important topic.
We recommend that a company’s human resources department implements a zero-tolerance harassment policy for the workplace. As we discussed in our last blog post on sexual harassment, employees should have clear guidelines on how to identify and report sexual harassment to the human resources department, and be encouraged to do so.
All employees have the right to work in an environment that is free of sexual harassment or any form of discrimination. It is up to leadership and the human resources department to meet the requirements of Title VII of the of the Civil Rights Act to maintain a harassment and discrimination-free workplace.
Terminations are unpleasant, but avoiding them can lead to bigger issues in your workplace, including lower morale and efficiency.
As a human resources company with over 50 years of experience, Cornerstone Insurance Group has gained valuable insight into how best to handle terminations within any organization.
Developing policies for discipline and termination is a great way to prevent employee claims, especially when the policies are clearly communicated to new hires and maintained throughout the company.
The experts at Cornerstone Insurance Group have over 50 years of experience in Human Resources and compliance solutions, and have seen how the lack of a solid disciplinary policy can negatively impact an organization.
Awareness of the various types of employee claims will help strengthen your human resources strategy and prepare your company for any possible litigation.
Employees can make internal, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or Human Rights Campaign complaints, or file a lawsuit against the employer with a formal Complaint and Summons. As experts in human resources and risk management, Cornerstone Insurance Group wants to help your team gain the knowledge they need to be prepared.
Lawsuits are expensive and time consuming. When employees take legal action, it can also cause emotional discomfort and tension in the workplace.
In hopes of avoiding any business interruption related to employee discipline, companies may discontinue a relationship with a troublesome employee immediately — but a snap decision can lead to more problems down the road.
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