As states begin to loosen restrictions on stay-at-home requirements and business closures, employers whose facilities have been closed or severely restricted in recent months can start planning for their reopening.
New Jersey is not there yet; Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order restricting nonessential businesses remains in effect. Nevertheless the number of COVID-19 cases is going down and the curve is flattening, so businesses should start thinking about what they have to do once the restrictions are lifted.
At HRDive.com, writer Ryan Golden shares ideas from a recent webinar on some of the issues businesses should consider in their reopening plans.
For instance, a nonessential business may not want to bring back all of its employees at once. A phased-in approach would make it easier to maintain social distancing, which will likely be a condition for opening the workplace. It would also limit potential exposure while businesses adjusts to changes in their operations brought on by the pandemic.
Additionally, employers should give plenty of advanced notice to workers about when they plan to reopen, and may want to consider requiring that workers provide a written acknowledgement of their intent to return to work. Such notifications may prompt some workers to disclose their intent to take paid leave guaranteed under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which could help in planning.
Recall communications should detail company efforts to keep workers safe upon return. If workers will be required to wear personal protective equipment such as masks or gloves, employers should communicate who is responsible for providing the equipment and when it should be worn. Policies on temperature checks, sanitation, workforce contact tracing and other coronavirus changes should also be communicated upfront.
Employers also should expect employees to be at least somewhat fearful of returning to work, and a number of them may even refuse to come to work for fear of getting infected. Before dismissing such concerns, employers should consider the morale of their workplace and whether the particular employees are part of a more vulnerable population.
If a worker does refuse to return to work, an employer could consider it a job resignation or job abandonment, and report it to the state’s unemployment officials. Whatever approach, it’s important to apply it consistently to all workers.