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Are your PTO Policies Ready for the Coronavirus Pandemic?

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Here at ACE Workforce Technologies, we are facing many of the same challenges our clients are considering right now. Of course, we are focused on the cleanliness of our workplace, encouraging employees who do not feel well to stay home, and providing plenty of access to soap and hand sanitizers to keep our employees healthy.

But there is a lot more for HR directors to think about when it comes to addressing PTO policies, work-at-home policies, and even what to do in the event of a quarantine.

Our colleagues at AliLawGroup (ALG), an organization that provides labor and employment counseling, recently released a webinar and presentation detailing the steps employers and HR directors should be taking to help reduce the spread of the pandemic while managing employee productivity. You can view the webinar replay here: https://vimeo.com/396767872/3b642022ef?mc_cid=1b4e7bef9a&mc_eid=63a3f66ff5

The law group also compiled a list of resources you can access for more information:

On March 17, 2020, ALG is planning a second webinar, How to Structure Remote Work Arrangements During Coronavirus (COVID-19). This webinar is free to ALG clients and will be presented by ALG attorney Kerri Beatty.

ALG clients can sign up here: How to Structure Remote Work Arrangements During Coronavirus

PTO Policies for Affected Employees

Employers should consider the health and safety of all employees when setting and enforcing paid time off policies. Affected employees include those who: 

  • Have traveled to China, Korea, Iran or Italy since the outbreak began
  • Live with anyone who has traveled to those countries
  • Test positive for the coronavirus
  • Show symptoms that could potentially be COVID-19 but have not been tested
  • Live with someone who has been infected with the coronavirus

Both infected and affected employees are encouraged to stay home; the recommended quarantine for those who may have been exposed to the virus is 14 days.

Employers may wish to review their PTO policies to ensure employees have adequate paid or unpaid time off. Employers may wish to allow employees to use vacation time if they are ill or quarantined and have used all their sick days.

Employers should send home any employees exhibiting symptoms immediately. To avoid resistance to being sent home, employers may wish to pay non-exempt employees for the entire shift, even if the employee leaves early.

Work-at-Home Policies in Light of the Pandemic

Employers should also establish work-at-home policies and technology for employees who may require quarantine and also for any personnel who can successfully work from home. Allowing people to work from home can help stop the spread of the virus and can also make it easier on working parents who suddenly find their school-age children home during the day.

With schools closing across the nation to prevent the spread of the virus, employers may wish to allow employees with children to also work from home. At this time, states like New York, with paid family leave policies, are not permitting PFL claims for parents to stay home with children whose schools have closed. PFL claims to stay home and care for children infected with coronavirus may also not be honored, except in extreme cases. However, these policies may change over coming weeks, so it’s important for your employees to know who they should speak to about PFL or short-term disability claims related to COVID-19. 

If you opt to have employees work from home, you’ll want to coordinate with your IT department to ensure cybersecurity measures. Your IT team will have to make sure remote workers have access to all necessary apps and files, including videoconferencing software to connect with the team.

Workplace Conditions to Combat the Spread of COVID-19

Employers and business owners may want to coordinate with their cleaning crews to ensure sanitary conditions in the workplace. Make sure offices and restrooms are well-stocked with hand soap, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes.

Proper hygiene should be reviewed, including sneezing into your elbow, disposing of tissues properly, and avoiding shaking hands as part of social distancing.

If you work in an open office with flexible workspaces, consider giving each employee a devoted work area. Similarly, all conference rooms, huddle spaces, and other community spaces should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after each meeting.

We’re Here to Help with Information and Resources

The weeks ahead will not be easy but how we respond now and how readily we embrace social distancing in every area of our lives could determine the course of the virus and the overall condition of our nation by summer.

ACE Workforce Technologies and our colleagues like ALG are here to help you navigate challenges related to PTO, work at home policies, and more in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can also feel free to email ALG at: sima.ali@alilawgroup.com with any questions related to the webinar or resources.

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