Question:  My business normally employs 25-35 employees.  Since March that number has fluctuated, and I have had to adopt policies to address the coronavirus pandemic, but I’m worried there may be other policies I need.  What types of policies need to be created or revised?

Answer:  It is important to make sure your written policies match your practices.  The coronavirus pandemic has altered the way most employers are doing business, so it is wise to review your policies and adopt new ones if needed.  Here is a non-exhaustive list of some policy considerations to review or create:

Paid Leave

  • Paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is available to eligible employees until December 31, 2020.  A separate policy is not required since there is an expiration date for this benefit, but make sure you have communicated with employees about this benefit and posted the required posters.  Also create a way to track FFCRA time used and collect supporting documentation for tax credit purposes.
  • Clarify time-off request procedures to explain when time off can be required by the employer in case sick employees need to be sent home (paid or unpaid).

Attendance/Scheduling

  • Revise policies to encourage sick employees to stay home when they have symptoms and allow employees to use paid sick leave if they have coronavirus symptoms, even if they do not feel sick.
  • Communicate adjusted or staggered work shifts, and meal and rest breaks implemented to encourage physical distancing.

Safety

  • Explain physical distancing practices, employee health screening policies, visitor screening practices, and other safety measures.
  • Describe personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements and provide necessary PPE, including face masks.
  • Implement an infectious disease control policy.
  • Update your Illness & Injury Prevention Program to comply with new coronavirus-related Cal/OSHA requirements: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/General-Industry.html
  • Adopt and communicate procedures for employee reporting of a positive COVID-19 case at the worksite and the employer’s response plan, including quarantine requirements and return-to-work procedures.

Telecommuting

  • Update telecommuting policies to identify the type of work or specific positions that are eligible for remote work and the procedures for requesting telework.
  • Revise business expense reimbursement policies to include eligible telecommuting-related costs and reimbursement procedures.
  • Clarify supervision and performance expectations for remote workers including timekeeping requirements, availability, and safety procedures for the remote workspace.

Technology

  • Revise information technology policies to describe how they apply to remote work.
  • Obtain or expand video and teleconferencing capabilities as needed, and provide training on the use of new technology.

Travel

  • Update travel policies to explain essential versus nonessential travel and the impact of domestic or global travel restrictions.
  • Review quarantine policies to address both business and personal travel, including pay arrangements when telecommuting is not possible.

Layoff/Recall

  • Consider adopting a policy describing layoff and recall procedures, which include information on whether and for how long benefits may continue.
  • Explain potential eligibility for partial unemployment insurance benefits for employees with reduced hours due to the pandemic.
  • Provide training and information to returning employees regarding safety and new return to work procedures.
  • Redetermine benefit eligibility for rehired employees as applicable.
  • Process new hire paperwork for rehired employees.

Some of these procedures may be incorporated into existing policies, or employers may wish to draft an employee handbook addendum containing policies unique to the coronavirus pandemic.  Either way, clear communication of new procedures and your expectations is important.