For many companies, workforce continuity planning was relegated to the back burner in favor of day-to-day tasks or pressing deadlines. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted business as usual and forced organizations to find ways to keep their people safe, productive and informed. While it is impossible to predict what’s next in the ongoing battle against COVID-19, employers currently have a valuable opportunity to translate their adaptations and response into a proactive, formalized plan moving forward.
Whether you are starting from scratch, identifying gaps in your response or taking stock of how well an existing plan worked, make sure to evaluate the areas outlined below for lessons learned or opportunities for improvement. HR consultants like the RKL Human Capital Management team can help employers assess preparedness and develop policies and procedures.
- Workplace health, safety and accessibility: Review compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and workers’ compensation laws and be prepared to engage in an interactive dialogue in order to make reasonable accommodations and offer support to employees on both fronts.
- Flexible or remote work options: If remote work is possible, your employee handbook must include guidance and parameters on using that option and you’ll also need to ensure your employees have the proper and secure technology tools to do so.
- Leave policies: Review sick time and paid time off policies and consider how sufficient they are to accommodate employee needs on both a routine basis and also a widespread health emergency. You should also consider how to handle your workforce during a temporary work stoppage or something that extends longer-term. Covered employers must also abide by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), so make sure any leave policies encompass this federal leave program and comply with its various provisions.
- Job descriptions and cross-training: The health and personal challenges created by COVID-19 underscore the need for understanding team member roles and responsibilities. Well-documented job descriptions and duties make it easier for another team member to step in and cover that role.
- Employee classification: Federal labor regulations stem from whether an employee is classified as exempt or non-exempt. Make sure all employees are properly classified and that your policies and procedures adhere to regulations.
- Benefits and payroll impact: Work through all possible scenarios that may impact eligibility for medical benefits or employer-sponsored retirement plans and discuss emergency accommodations (i.e. penalty waiver) with providers. Consider how your organization administers payroll. How manual is all or part of the process? Can it be handled remotely on a permanent basis? Is more than one employee trained for this task? Short-term measures should be available to bridge an immediate emergency need, but over the long-term migration to a cloud-based or outsourced solution may be prudent.
- Confidentiality and privacy: Many federal and state laws, such as HIPAA and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, regulate matters of employee privacy and confidentiality. How solid are your understanding of these laws and do your policies address workplace communication and behavior accordingly?
- Communication: Clear and frequent communication is key to keeping employees updated, but also remember to communicate with vendors, suppliers, clients and community partners in times of emergency or business disruption.
RKL’s Human Capital Management team is available to help employers with workforce continuity planning, job description and documentation, development or adjustment of policies and more. Contact your RKL advisor or use the form below to start the conversation around your unique workforce circumstances and planning needs.