It’s a Different World as Employees and Employers Return to Work After COVID
Running a successful business and effectively managing a workforce are tall orders even in the best of times, but doing so with that Colorado workforce returning to work after COVID is even more so. As furloughed or telecommuting employees come back to the office or workplace after months at home, employers have a whole new round of questions to address.
Many of these questions involve keeping employees safe, addressing COVID-related issues when they arise, and legal obligations relating to disability and family or medical leave. Here are five of the most frequently asked questions from employers in Colorado and nationwide about employees returning to work after COVID.
1. What Do We Need to Do to Maintain a Safe Workplace When Returning to Work After COVID?
Under the law, all employers have a legal obligation to provide and maintain a safe workplace for their employees. But what that means in a pandemic era, when the virus continues to rage and national and Colorado government guidance and restrictions often change, can be confusing.
First and foremost, Colorado employers should follow all laws, executive orders, and other rules and limitations established by local and state governments and public health authorities regarding indoor spaces and employee safety. But as a general matter, employers can look to the guidance provided by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC guidance includes detailed suggestions for how to maintain a safe workplace, as well as general policies and protocols such as:
- Conducting daily employee health checks
- Conducting a workplace hazard assessment
- Encouraging employees to wear masks and cloth face coverings in the workplace
- Implementing policies and practices for social distancing
- Improving building ventilation systems
2. What if an Employee Wants to Continue Working From Home or Feels Unsafe Returning to Work After COVID?
While everyone is vulnerable to coronavirus, some people are at increased risk because of preexisting health conditions, such as immunodeficiency disorders. For such employees, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) may require an employer to make a “reasonable accommodation” to allow the worker to perform their job in a way that accounts for their disability in the context of COVID-19.
Guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) addresses several pandemic-related employment and ADA issues.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis has implemented a Colorado COVID Update page that provides lots of useful links to all things COVID and Colorado.
3. Are Employees Entitled to Leave if Their Kid’s School Is Closed or They Need to Care For Someone with COVID-19?
In the early days of the pandemic, the federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which applies to employers with less than 500 employees. The FFCRA established a new type of protected leave: paid family and medical leave necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
FFCRA leave is available to employees who must take time off because:
- They have or possibly have COVID-19
- They need to care for someone in their household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or
- They need to care for their minor children because their school, daycare center, or other child-care services are closed due to COVID-19.
The first two types of leave are limited to two weeks, but the third type (to care for a child) can run up to 12 weeks in total.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has guidance for employers and employees about their family and medical leave rights under the FFCRA.
4. What if an Employee Tests Positive For COVID-19?
Employers in Colorado Springs should have protocols in place to address an employee who becomes ill or tests positive for COVID-19. Again, CDC guidance provides an excellent source for information about what to do, including:
- Isolating/quarantining infected employees
- Isolating employees working near an infected coworker
- Cleaning and disinfecting the workplace
- Notifying all other employees who may be at risk for exposure from the affected worker
5. Can We Require COVID Testing as Employees Return to Work After COVID?
Yes. According to EEOC guidance, “employers may take steps to determine if employees entering the workplace have COVID-19 because an individual with the virus will pose a direct threat to the health of others.”
Many Colorado Springs businesses are requiring employees who experience colds to get COVID tested before returning to work. This is especially true in the hospitality industry.
Health Insurance Options, Guidance, and Expertise for Colorado Small Businesses
In addition to maintaining a safe workplace, employers can help keep their workforce healthy through a robust and affordable group health insurance program. As an experienced Colorado small business and individual health insurance broker, Preferred Insurance can answer your questions and provide practical, affordable solutions during these uncertain times. We can meet all of your coverage needs remotely and take care of everything via video conference, phone, or email.
Contact Preferred Insurance today to arrange for your free consultation to discuss your small business or individual health insurance needs.