COVID-19 2020: Managing employees during the Coronavirus pandemic. Dealing with employees who may be sick and making temporary policy modifications.

More than 70 percent of companies didn’t have a crisis management plan in place when the Coronavirus outbreak hit, according to a survey by Blank Rome. Even those who did anticipated natural disasters like floods and fires, but not a global pandemic like COVID-19.

Without an emergency response plan in place, how are employers dealing with things like emergency contact systems, data privacy, defining essential functions, managing employees who become ill and avoiding panicked reactions to negative news?

COVID-19 2020: Managing Employees During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Here are some of the temporary modifications employers told Blank Rome they’ve made in response to the Coronavirus pandemic:

  • We are following CDC guidelines; if an employee is sick we are sending them home.
  • We started specific weekly communications on March 3rd regarding precautionary personal and workplace hygiene, staying home or going home if ill, social distancing. We applied more specific polices on March 13th and formally implemented work from home as well as rotational work assignments.
  • We extended the absence period for returning to work from 3 to 5 days and on a case by case basis in some instances.
  • We have released anyone with symptoms and required doctors notes to return.
  • We’ve requested all employees to get tested and made arrangements for the testing to get done.
  • We are operating on the honor system for absences or modifications and accommodations during this time.
  • We are asking screening questions and are considering temperature checks.

Responding to Employee Testing Positive for COVID-19

Nearly 7 percent of the companies Blank Rome surveyed had an employee test positive for COVID-19 and in response to it:

  • 23 percent of employers converted to remote work for all employees not required to be on-site.
  • 17 percent continued operations with modifications.
  • 3 percent closed the entire worksite where the employee who tested positive reported.

Managing Paid Time Off

Over 40 percent of employers have paid employees who show symptoms of COVID-19 but haven’t been diagnosed or allowed them to use paid time off. Nearly half of businesses that have had to temporarily shut down business operations are still paying workers and more than 20 percent are requiring use of paid time off.

Managing Employee Complaints

Less than 15 percent of employers have received COVID-19-related complaints from employees, but more than 90 percent have required responses that don’t fall within the traditional framework of complaints, including disability discrimination, retaliation and OSHA. Here are some of the COVID-19-related complaints employers have received:

  • Employees requesting shutdown.
  • Employees complaining about lack of sanitizer and masks.
  • Employees frustrated about working remotely.
  • Employees complaining the company failed to act quickly and put inexperienced people in charge of decision making.
  • Employees complaining that there isn’t a policy in place.
  • Employees upset about being required to come into work when they think they should be allowed to stay home during the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • Employees concerned about how matters will be handled.

How employers respond to the Coronavirus pandemic will have a significant impact on business for years to come. It’s crucial to empathize with employee concerns and communicate what the company is doing to protect both employees and business operations.

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