After my first blog on this last week, I have gotten some questions and concerns. Here is additional information to assist in your business planning.

A recent Paychex survey indicated 59% of small business owners have a disaster plan. 54% can accommodate remote work if needed. Yet on HR forums, many small employers are still trying to figure out such issues.

Business Planning and Employee Issues

Do you have an Emergency Operations Plan? Does your structure change in such conditions? Who knows how that will work? What training is needed?

Have you assessed which functions are critical and must be maintained? Which may have less critical aspects which could be delayed or reduced if needed? What is non-critical, hence can be eliminated? These assessments form the basis for decisions about employees and customers/clients who will need notice of changes and timing.

Whatever type of small employer you are, you may face decisions on having to close your organization or an office. Closure may result from a lack of demand, a lack of employees, or a government order. How will you address this?

What about remote work? Do some or all of your functions lend themselves to telecommuting? Do you have the equipment and services to make that work? Have you had a ‘practice day’? Some small organizations are already having employees take their work laptop home each night, just in case there is an emergency closure.

Could you institute ‘social distancing’ at work? Would using meeting or conference rooms allow you to spread employees out so that no-one is sitting too near another person? Should you have a sign on your door or shop entrance saying it is a ‘no handshake’ zone?

Many small employers have already cancelled travel to meetings or conferences. Some have banned all visitors, including vendors, from their spaces. Others are doing job interviews by Skype or FacebookLive now.

Have you stopped non-essential expenditures to conserve cash? Talked to your bank about an increased line of credit?

Pay and Benefits

Every employee is worried about their money. So are most small employers.

Federal law governs who must be paid. Employees who are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act – often called non-exempt – must be paid for all time worked. If they do not work, they are not paid. Exempt employees, however, must be paid their full salary for every week in which they work at all.

More details on this and other wage issues are available through this new webpage:
DOL Guidance on Wage Issues

State and local laws govern sick leave. Otherwise, company policy governs. Now is the time to look at your policy. If you offer sick leave or a PTO plan, how will you handle Covid-19 issues? If you do not currently provide sick leave, will you do anything now to ensure or encourage employees to stay home if they or a family member are sick? You may want to consider a special plan now to address what you will do for this emergency response only. That could include

  • offering sick leave on a temporary basis,
  • modifying your existing sick leave plan,
  • providing more sick leave than usual but reserved solely for Covid 19 related needs,
  • allowing a draw from future sick leave and carrying a negative balance for some period,
  • a different sick leave structure – such as half-pay but for a longer period than your standard plan, or
  • other options that work for your organization and which you can afford.

If you offer short-term disability, check your policy and look at the waiting period to see if you want a temporary adjustment.

If an employee contracts Covid-19 while on business travel, be sure to notify your Workers Compensation provider.

Do send employees with visible illness home immediately to reduce spread.

Remember to maintain confidentiality of any employee’s illness, including this new coronavirus. Plan to cooperate with local public health agencies as needed.

Health and safety of workers is also governed by OSHA. They offer
Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for Covid-19

Help for Employees

Employee communications are a critical calming – and retention – tool in times of confusion and uncertainty. Help your employees by keeping them informed as well as by providing hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies. Make it clear that you value their safety and health. Talk about what you are doing during this emergency in terms of your business values!

Suggest they look at for information on planning and ideas to help them (and their children) cope with any natural disaster or emergency.

This resource also has lots of good information for your organization’s preparedness.

As soon as you decide what you are doing about pay-related concerns, talk about your plan so that employees can prepare.

If you offer health insurance, talk to your insurance provider about what they are doing about Covid-19 testing, copays, and co-insurance requirements. Are they waiving these? Communicate that to employees also.

Keep people up to date with what you are planning and ask for their suggestions.

I know it is easy to become overwhelmed by all the information coming out on this virus. I am monitoring a lot of different resources. Call if you have questions or concerns.