By Carlos Ledo
The COVID-19 crisis is wreaking havoc on small and mid-sized business across South Florida. In a month’s time, the pandemic completely changed day-to day life, from shopping and traveling to going to work and running businesses. The result? Office closures, layoffs, furloughs and ever-changing guidance at the local, state and federal level.
For small and medium-sized business owners trying to stay afloat, worrying about HR, compliance and safety issues is incredibly overwhelming.
Here are several key practices that employers can keep in mind in order to keep their businesses running as normally as possible:
How to manage risk and safety concerns (e.g., how to protect employees if you can’t close your business)
- If a company is required to remain open or chooses to continue operations, employees should follow the recommendations set out by federal, state, and local government concerning: social distancing, handwashing, and overall monitoring of their individual health.
How to manage paid leave and sick leave policies
- Employers should honor their current sick leave and paid time off policies if they are open for business. Thus, employees should be allowed to take their PTO if requested and cash out their PTO if they decide to resign (if that is company policy). Additionally, employers who continue operations—even if using a telecommuting model for the foreseeable future—must be aware of the new paid leave policies put into place by the federal government via recent legislation. The new EPSLA (Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act) and EFMLEA (Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act) provide a paid leave framework for specific classes of employees affected by the virus. It is highly recommended that employers speak with their human resources team and/or employment counsel to ensure compliance with these new acts.
How to effectively communicate with employees regarding benefits, potential reduction in workforce and more
- Employers should establish communication plans to ensure their employees receive critical alerts, memos, or other essential company communications during this time. Additionally, employers must prepare to communicate any changes in operations in clear, concise, and uniform manner to their staff. Finally, employers should ask their human resources staff and/or employment counsel for guidance on how to implement operational changes and communicate those changes to employees.
Tips on managing a remote workforce
- Managing a remote workforce can be a challenge for any organization. However, by creating clear task-based objectives and monitoring employee work product, employers can help mitigate the risk of productivity loss and ensure their workforce stays engaged.
How can businesses adjust current HR policies to reflect this “new normal”
- Companies should not compromise their operational standards but must remain flexible in their approach to how work gets done moving forward. Thus, HR policies and guidelines should still be adhered to and enforced, but how those policies are carried out can be fluid.
Carlos Ledo is assistant general counsel and a human resources consultant for Engage PEO