As you plan to re-open your offices or bringing more people in, employees may be concerned about returning. If you already have a telework plan, does it need any changes now? If you do not, now is the time to develop one. While most employees want to work in the office at least part-time, nearly a third are interested in full-time remote work. You need to assess what you want to offer in advance and make that clear early. As soon as you have a basic policy on telework, communicate it. Do the same with your re-opening plan.

There are also some legal issues to be aware of in your preparation and in talking with your staff.


You may remember the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in March. If you have not thought much about it, now is the time. The considerations under FFCRA run until the end of the year. More employees may be asking for added time off as you re-open your office or reduce telework options.

FFCRA covers all small employers (under 500 employees.) If an employee is unable to work or telework, it provides options for paid leave.

Sick Leave:

Up to two weeks (80 hours) at an employee’s regular rate of pay to a max of $511 per day and $5110 in total over the two-week period where the employee:

1) is quarantined and/or is experiencing Covid19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis, or

At a rate of 2/3 regular pay up to a maximum of $340 per day

2) because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or

3) care for a child, under 18, whose school or childcare provider is closed due to Covid19

Up to an additional 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay up to a maximum of $200 per day where the employee:

has a bona fide need to care for a child whose school or childcare provider is closed due to Covid19

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability. This exception is if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.

Tax Credits: Covered employers qualify for dollar-for-dollar reimbursement through tax credits for all qualifying wages paid under the FFCRA. Qualifying wages are those paid to an employee who takes leave under the Act for a qualifying reason, up to the appropriate per diem and aggregate payment caps. Applicable tax credits also extend to amounts paid or incurred to maintain health insurance coverage.

An employee must provide the following information before taking paid sick leave or expanded FMLA leave:

Employee’s name;
Date(s) for which leave is requested
Qualifying reason for the leave;
statement that the employee is unable to work because of the qualified reason for leave.
The name of the government entity that issued the quarantine or isolation order.
The name of the health care provider who advised the employee to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
The name of the son or daughter being cared for;
The name of the school, place of care, or child care provider that has closed or become unavailable; and
A representation that no other suitable person will be caring for the son or daughter during the period for which the employee takes paid sick leave or expanded FMLA leave.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies if you have 15 or more employees.

Employees who have health concerns about returning may suddenly state they cannot come back when you begin to talk about re-opening. Others whose conditions have already led to accommodations may request additional support. If you are covered by this law, you need to make “reasonable accommodations.” Even if you are not covered, you may want to make an effort to retain a good employee.

“Reasonable accommodation” is an iterative process.
*An employee requests an accommodation.
*You request a letter from their doctor addressing the health issue and possible options.
*You work with the employee to provide whatever makes sense in terms of your business needs.

Perhaps an employee has only one lung and fears being exposed to Covid-19 at work – could the job be done as required with full time telework? Offering a single person office? Allowing the person to not wear a mask to make breathing easier?

You do not have to accept the employee’s requested accommodation or the doctor’s if that hinders your business needs. But you should engage with the employee to find a decent solution wherever possible. Such a solution would be temporary in this case – perhaps tied to the number of coronavirus cases in the area or the availability of a vaccine.

OSHA Statement

“If an employer implements health screening or temperature checks and chooses to create records of this information, those records might qualify as medical records under the Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records standard (29 CFR 1910.1020). The employer would then be required to retain these records for the duration of each worker’s employment plus 30 years and follow confidentiality requirements.”

You will want to consider this in developing any temperature or medical checks or questionnaires.  Replacing documents with a verbal check or one that is on each person’s computer/telephone but is not retained may be easier to manage.  Your goal here is ensure people who are ill or have been exposed do not come to work.   

I am happy to provide links to laws and FAQs as needed.  Contact me if you have questions or need a review of your plan.