Operating a nonprofit (and our own household) during this pandemic has been an incredible challenge. Employers have navigated many changes throughout this pandemic to keep up with all the new guidelines from the CDC or OSHA and state, local, and federal laws.
Employers also have had to review and ensure their organization’s culture and safety standards were updated and followed. We can all expect more employment law changes are coming and will almost certainly impact post-pandemic policy and procedure.
First and foremost, employers need to continue to:
- Provide the proper education and necessary PPE (personal protective equipment).
- Set clear guidelines and continue to implement a prevention plan, including additional deep cleaning/fogging at the worksite when there has been a positive case of COVID-19 at their organization.
- Follow the CDC guidelines in administering organizational policies and procedures as new data is shared.
As we know, all this has been a moving target. Information, laws, and recommendations have changed rapidly in the last twelve months. Although employers cannot control employee’s health and safety habits (behavior) outside of the workplace, they can require strict rules for employees and clients while at work.
Employers need to over-communicate with their employees, especially now. They need to be creative in their thinking to support and encourage safe habits outside of work and model the appropriate behavior. There is a recent example of a nonprofit CEO who generously provided a virtual/online New Year’s Eve event with a DJ to encourage staff to stay sheltered in place during that holiday. That was a creative way to support employees through these unprecedented times.
This past year we have seen more virtual meetings, virtual interviews, and an increase in health and safety concerns for essential workers. All of this means that management has a greater responsibility to manage all the implications this pandemic has had on its workforce. Ensuring proper training is available to staff is especially key now that technology is even more crucial for effective operations.
Preparing for after the pandemic
Moving forward to the post-pandemic workplace, masking and social distancing will continue to be essential. Employers may REQUIRE employees to get vaccinated, with the understanding that there will be some exceptions and protections under the ADA, religious beliefs, and/or specific medical restrictions. Reasonable accommodations may need to be made through an interactive process. In unionized environments, it is recommended to meet and confer with union leadership prior to implementing vaccine mandates.
Employers should not be surprised that there may be employees who voice concerns as to whether their co-workers have received the vaccination. Confidentiality must be followed.
Employers are encouraged to allow their employees to obtain their vaccination during work hours, as needed, and to provide resources for the vaccine as able. While employers may not be required to pay employees for time spent getting vaccinated, they are strongly advised to do so, especially if done during work hours and if mandates are implemented. There may continue to be challenges with vaccine availability, eligibility concerns, and potential side effects, so it will be important to work to coordinate, support, and reassure staff to accomplish a safer worksite.
Vaccination records should be documented and stored in confidential HR files (including refusals). This data will be important for potential workers’ compensation claims and OSHA compliance. Remember to follow the appropriate notice requirements when there is a positive COVID-19 case (other potentially exposed employees, the public health department, and your workers’ compensation carrier) or an outbreak (inform OSHA).
Employers should understand that this will not be a one size fits all fix when dealing with the impact of this pandemic, including the implementation of the vaccine. Collaboration, coordination, and clear communication is key!
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