The good news is you don’t have to update your employee handbook to cover all of the temporary rules and programs put in place in response to the pandemic, according to Peter Frattarelli, an attorney for Archer Law.
But a review of handbooks is necessary for most if not all businesses, particularly as employers begin reopening amid a rash of new protocols to protect employees and customers.
Specifically, employers should at the very least review their policies on telework and health checks in their handbooks and make sure they reflect the “new normal.”
Frattarelli covered the handbook policies Thursday during an NJBIA webinar entitled, Employee Handbook 2020: Modifications for COVID-19 Pandemic.
Health checks are likely to require changes in policies at a lot of business. Frattarelli said such actions as taking an employee’s temperature before allowing them access to the facility is normally prohibited, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has revised its rules to allow temperature checks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“As we all know, it was essentially taboo to consider just testing employees because you were concerned about them being sick,” Frattarelli said. “That was always viewed as perceiving someone as being disabled.”
Employers need to make sure that their handbooks do not prevent health checks, and employers should lay out the requirements to make sure the business complies with all of the guidance on how to conduct them.
Also, many businesses are dealing with telework on a level they have never considered before. Employers should remember that state and federal wage and hour laws still apply in work-from-home arrangements.
Frattarelli said the employee handbook should spell out the rules for keeping track of employees work hours, particularly for non-exempt workers, and when they will take their breaks.
“The telework and telecommuting world that we’re all in, even if you have all of your employees back, I think it’s very important to have something in there that’s going to give you that flexibility and set the rules, frankly, for how telework is going to happen,” Frattarelli said.
View the full webinar here.