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TABS Webinar Report

SHRM and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) held a webinar on COVID-19 update – Understanding What Has Happened and What is Ahead.

9 April 2020


– Dr. Jay C. Butler, MD, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases CDC

– Alexander Alonso Ph.D, Chief Knowledge Officer, SHRM-SCP

– Amber Clayton, Director, SHRM Knowledge Center.


When can people go back to work after being sick?

There are three main determining factors: 1. No fever for 3 days without using anti inflammatory medication; 2. Improvement of other symptoms, and 3. It’s been more than 7 days since you started showing the first symptoms.
If you have been tested positive for COVID-19 we recommend that you must be tested negative twice in over a 24h period.

Will employers be able to provide tests to their employees?

Ideally yes, the big question is when? The most you can do now is keep people who are asymptomatic at home. If you need people in, you can have a symptom or temperature screen.

How can companies adapt their policies to this current scenario?

This is not an easy question because the policies will be very particular to the place you are, but there are definitely some policies that can be made based on facts that are true everywhere. Wherever you are in the globe it is likely that eventually you will get stuck, if you aren’t already, so we encourage companies to have a work from home policy, to be more flexible with telework and schedules.

What can we expect from the future? What will workers want or need to go back to work? And how can workers do if we have a second wave down the line?

These are great questions that address important issues. One of them is the seasonality of the disease. This is a virus that we didn’t even know it existed up until a few months ago, so don’t know how and if the weather has any effect on it. So we need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, what this means in terms of preparation is learning from the current experience and applying to your work policy so the transition is smooth and employers can communicate and mitigate risks more effectively and know how they can support employees who are vital to keep their operations, obviously keeping them as safe as possible. Keep monitoring the CDC website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) for companies’ recommendations.


What is considered essential business during a shelter in place order?

If your state has a shelter in place or stay at home order we are advising everyone to go on the Cyber and Infrastructure State Agency website (https://www.cisa.gov/), together with Homeland Security and the private sector they have elaborated a list of business who may be considered essential. This is a guide only, you must also consult your local city or state agency to make sure your business is considered essential.


How can we keep our employees engaged when working from home?

We are strongly advising employers to communicate daily or at least regularly with their employees, in our case we have implemented a few things that have been successful such as check-ins and virtual happy hours. Be, and ask your employees to be more transparent in communication, explain what you’re doing and how you’re getting to a certain decision. We have learned that there has been some innovation, employees are now able to do some things or explore a specific streamline or business that they weren’t before, so this situation may bring new opportunities as well.


If I need to furlough some of my employees can I pick and choose? Are there a minimum and maximum days I can furlough someone?

Furloughs usually last days or weeks, but they can last longer, there is no minimum or maximum days they must last. You can choose anyone in your company to be furloughed, but make sure you have reasonable motives and they are documented, the last thing you want is to engage in discrimination even fi unintentional. As an example, if you decide to furlough your most senior employees you may be liable for age discrimination.


Should a furlough or lay-off be filed in the state the employee works or in the state they live?

This is a very common question that people ask even outside of this Covid-19 situation. The file should always be in the state the employee works.


How do we complete section 2 of the form I9 for new hires when the employee is working remotely?

During this time the Department of Homeland Security has given employers some flexibility. Employers may designate representatives to look at original employment documents and complete section 2, they can also inspect documents remotely via video fax or email, employers are still required to provide documents within 3 business days of hire (not applied to situations where employees are still working at the work site).


Can we change our salary exempt employees to hourly nonexempt to reduce their work hours?

Unless there’s a contract that states otherwise, employers can change the terms and conditions and that includes reducing the hours and the salary, Montana is the only state that is not at will. When making the decision to make that change, it should be perspective change and not a retroactive change and it should be on a long term basis, you don’t want to do it on a day to day or week to week basis because that can jeopardize the exempt status and it can result in having to pay overtime to these individuals.


Will employees still be eligible for health insurance after being furloughed or laid off?

The benefit plan document must be consulted to make sure if the benefit can continue during a temporary leave.

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