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How Do I Create a Policy to Respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic?

March 21, 2020

By: Alison Smith, Partner in Kelley Kronenberg’s Fort Lauderdale office focusing her practice on Employment and Labor Law.

Alison has significant experience handling all aspects of employment and labor law including conducting training and employee investigations, engaging in collective bargaining with various unions and providing advice and counsel to private and public entities regarding existing and emerging laws such as the ADA, Florida Civil Rights Act, ADEA, FMLA, FLSA, and others.

 

So you have probably read by now that you need to have a specific policy in response to this Coronavirus crisis, right?  If you are in Human Resources, you are probably getting pressure to put one together, but how?

Here are tips on what you should consider when drafting a policy:

  • Will employees who have tested positive be required to use their accrued sick time?  What about paid time off (“PTO”)?
  • What if they are new and don’t have any time?  Will you just put them on unpaid leave?  Can someone donate time to them?
  • Will you require medical documentation like a medical certification to verify someone has the virus?
  • What if schools close?  Will you require employees to come to work or can they work from home?
  • Have you assessed who in the company has the ability to work remotely?  You should be taking a close look at that now.
  • Have you considered reducing the hours/days of work of employees?  Furloughs?  Temporary layoffs?  Have you looked at what staff is actually critical?  You should do this assessment and the policy should reflect if/under what circumstances a furlough, layoff, or reduction in hours is possible.
    • Keep in mind that some states have specific laws governing how a layoff or furlough can be done.  Additionally, if a collective bargaining agreement is in effect, that controls when and how layoffs can be done.
    • What will the policy be for an employee who asks for an alternative work schedule?  Will that be considered on a case-by-case basis?  Using what factors?
    • Under what circumstances will employees be allowed to telecommute or work from home?
    • What will the company policy be as it relates to travel?  Will there be a separate policy for domestic versus international travel?
    • Does the employee need to self-quarantine regardless of where he or she has been?  Does he or she need some sort of medical certification?
    • If someone or a member of his or her household does travel, what will be the policy for allowing that person back to work?
    • What social distancing requirements have you implemented (or plan to implement)?
    • Are you banning food sharing (no birthday cakes for example)?  Gathering in the lunchroom?  Do you want people to eat on their own or at their desks?  Do you want to limit in-person meetings and advise people to use the phone or email?
    • Have you decided to cancel workshops or training sessions?
    • Do you want to address employees’ outside activities (i.e., urging them to avoid public transportation, large crowds, crowded restaurants, social gatherings, recreational activities (e.g., plays, movies, etc.)?

The foregoing considerations will guide you in preparing the most comprehensive policy possible while balancing the needs of the company with the health of your employees.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide you with general information regarding the impact of a potential or actual coronavirus pandemic. The contents of this article are not intended to provide specific legal advice.

For more information, please contact Alison Smith, asmith@kklaw.com or TEXT, 954-281-9262.