In these difficult times, employers are willing to know what to do with their employees during the COVID-19 crisis, or Coronavirus, as many still call it. This is something that no one wanted nor was ever prepared for.
Here we’ll be answering the most common questions that employers ask themselves to guide you make decisions and be more aware of what’s happening in the business world right now.
Also, you will find all the necessary information you need in case you must deal with challenging situations at work during this COVID-19 period.
Note that this article was written in early April 2020 and, therefore, the information might be outdated.
COVID-19 FAQs for Employers
1. What is COVID-19?
You probably heard a lot about COVID-19, but it is good to remind all of us what this new type of Coronavirus is and where did the Coronavirus come from.
COVID-19 is a novel virus part of the Coronavirus family and the first cases were found in Wuhan, China. The main symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. However, muscle pain, diarrhea, and sore throat are also observed in some cases.
There is currently no official treatment of this novel Coronavirus nor vaccination. The current number of cases worldwide is a little over 1.1 Million which includes more than 68,000 dead and over 260,000 recovered. The remaining ones are either in self-quarantine at home or in the hospital.
2. Which of the US States are in Lockdown?
Although the COVID-19 had a very recent spike in cases, many states are already locked down, and we perfectly understand why and agree.
Many states are currently in lockdown and outside activities such as social gatherings or festivals have been prohibited.
3. What Does a Lockdown Look Like?
Under a lockdown, all non-essential businesses are closed from retail shops and jewellery to music ones and, as we mentioned above, restaurants and bars.
This measure was taken to encourage American citizens to stay home and to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
Apart from the lockdown, many citizens travelling were told and invited to come back to America to avoid being stuck in a foreign country should all the flights get cancelled. The whole country has been closed to all citizens apart from American passport holders.
This is a serious topic that many of us are not properly trained or prepared for, and where we should act quickly.
4. What To Do With an Employee That Feels Unwell at Work?
To start with, your employees might be at work and feeling unwell, and that’s not what you want in this period.
If you see one of your employees that don’t feel well, have a continuous cough, or even have a high temperature (above 100 degrees), they should be separate from the other members of staff sent to the hospital immediately.
Of course, if that person has been tested positive for the normal flu or other more common sicknesses, they should be sent home.
5. What To Do If an Employee Catches the COVID-19?
This is going to happen very soon to many employers, unfortunately, and it is not simple to get prepared for it.
In case an employee of yours does get the COVID-19, you should ask him to immediately contact the hospital to get professional assistance.
6. Is COVID-19 Considered a Disability in America?
This is an interesting question that many employers ask themselves.
Up to this date, getting positive to COVID-19 does not make you disable and this Coronavirus, therefore, is not viewed as a disability.
However, depending on the case, your employee might be entitled to reasonable accommodation and protection under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) if the reaction is very severe and could complicate other employees’ health conditions or disabilities.
Lastly, we highly recommend you getting masks and hand sanitizers for your employees while working. These will not make your employees invulnerable to the Coronavirus, but that will help the spread of COVID-19 in case someone is infected.
Employers are welcome to check the World Health Organization’s website to know the best preventive measures to take at work.
7. Restaurants Are the Hardest Hit, So How to Best Support Staff?
This is something that everyone saw coming with the lockdown related to COVID-19. In fact, since most of the population stays home, or at least should be staying home, restaurants have stopped receiving guests and therefore are struggling.
So how to best support staff members when restaurants had been closed?
First of all, many restaurants remain open, but for delivery and pickup only. That is a good way to keep making some money.
Unfortunately, restaurant owners cannot expect to receive hundreds of delivery orders per day, as some restaurant chains have lost significant income.
8. Should You Allow Your Employees to Work Remotely?
Working from home is probably the most revolutionary system that has been introduced in the past years. Due to the latest COVID-19 lockdown, remote work is gaining steam across the world.
Most employees like it, and some dislike it. However, in this period of the Coronavirus crisis, giving them a chance of working from home is a great opportunity.
A recommendation to be given is to encourage them to download an app to boost employee productivity while working from home.
For instance, these apps can have impressive results as they would either block distracting websites, managing schedules, or simply to take notes.
Besides, you can send a gift to your employees working from home using Gemnote, as they have an extended catalogue of great gift ideas. A gift will make them happier, more satisfied with their relationship with you, and ultimately more motivated.
Whether you send a pair of socks, a customized cup or a plant with a nice card, you will certainly conquer your members of staff!
To sum up, we highly encourage you to allow your employees to work from home to help prevent COVID-19 spread and ultimately, it will also help prevent employee burnout.
9. Laws About Firing Employees During COVID-19
Firing a member of your staff is the last step that you want to take. However, sometimes, there’s just no other choice.
Employees are more and more aware of their rights and they’re more likely to seek the advice of an attorney whether they think they were wrongly or unfairly fired.
First of all, it is not legal to fire an employee because of race, age, religion, national origin or disability if these do not influence their performance at work.
Secondly, it is indeed not legal to fire an employee while on sick leave.
You have to be well aware that laws change from state to state and that, of course, laws may change over time.
In case you ignore it and decide to fire your employee for being on sick leave, he might reach out to an attorney and get you in serious trouble. It is also illegal to retaliate against your employee for using his sick leave.
Lastly, in the US, there are at-will contracts that essentially are more flexible contracts that allow both employer and employee to end the employment. These agreements can be ended with no notice and for any legal reason (the illegal ones being listed here above).
Of course, we highly encourage, and you should always check the local laws and take all the legal measures before firing someone. Also, the contract or agreement between yourself, employer, and your employees is a very important factor to consider.
With this in mind, we jump off to the next point.
10. How to Take Care of Your Employees Especially if You Need to Lay Some Off or Furlough?
Taking care of your employees is not always the easiest task and with COVID-19, it makes things even trickier.
Unfortunately, in this period of crisis, employers might need to recalculate their budget and lay some employees off or furlough them.
11. What’s the Difference Between a Furlough and a Layoff?
In regards to employee furloughs, employees take either unpaid or partially paid time off of work for different periods. The employees usually have either scheduled time off or call-back rights and expectations.
Oppositely, when in a layoff, employees usually have no right to recall and no assumption of the job returning.
So, how to take care of them?
It is always a difficult conversation to have with your employees when you’re about to announce to them that their job is coming to an end.
Needless to say, a furlough is always preferred as they may get their job back at some point in the future. However, this option may not be available depending on your plans.
Take the time to explain to your employees the impact that COVID-19 and the lockdown have on your business and why you have to take this decision. It is a situation that no one wanted.
In conclusion, your employees will understand that an economic crisis may come and that you need to take precautions.
12. How to Prepare For COVID-19?
There are several ways to get prepared for COVID-19, both at work and in personal life.
As mentioned above, no one knows when this is going to end nor if or when it is going to impact us directly. The best is simply to stay at home.
Stockpiling to avoid going out is certainly an idea that many had, however, it is not the best way to prepare for COVID-19. Going to the grocery store and being in contact with many other people can be dangerous and might get you in a potential risk of catching the coronavirus.
On the other hand, you should get some food for a few days to avoid getting out.
Other than that, we highly recommend buying a surgical mask, preferably an N95 type, together with gloves and surgical masks to protect yourself as much as possible.
Of course, we mentioned working from home in this article, and you should talk to your employer if you can. Understandably, restaurant or hotel staff members cannot work from home, but many of us might have this opportunity.
Last but not least, one simple yet powerful prevention mechanism against any communicable disease is to take Vitamin C and have a healthy lifestyle. However, there isn’t enough data or study to show the effectiveness of COVID-19. However, leading an unhealthy lifestyle does increases once’s chances of a lower immunity and possibly being at risk of being infected by COVID-19. For instance, smokers are more likely to get serious issues related to the coronavirus and end up in the hospital. Similarly, a person having a poor diet and being overweight tend to suffer complications from COVID-19.
13. How Long Will COVID-19 last in the US?
Recently President Donald Trump has extended the COVID-19 shut down for the entire month of April, and his administration suggests that things could go back to normal in the summer.
Schools and universities are currently closed and unnecessary businesses are shut down. Is this the right way to prevent the virus from spreading? Well, it certainly does help.
Keeping in mind that the situation is changing very quickly and that security measures were taken, no one knows how long COVID-19 will last.
China has managed to contain the virus in just over 3 months which is good news, but they also completely shut down the country by keeping all the students home, closing businesses, and locking down many big cities.
If we take their example and follow the same measures in place, we should be done with this crisis in the next 2 to 3 months.
Although there is currently no cure or vaccination for COVID-19, the best we can do at the moment is to stay home as much as possible.
Certainly, everyone can’t be in self-quarantine at home, however, we highly recommend you keeping your distance with people, washing your hands very frequently and above all, don’t shake hands and avoid contact when possible.
We shouldn’t panic nor get paranoid, but these small recommendations could save you and other people a lot of trouble.
Last but not least, take care of your employees as much as possible and try to always find the best middle ground solution for yourself and them.