Coronavirus Impacts on the Employee Handbook

July 20, 2020 - minute read

Employers are hard at work managing the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, including its impact on workforce management and employee safety. In the face of so much uncertainty, many have yet to finalize pandemic procedures within their employee handbooks and continue to operate using pre-existing policies.

Whether you’re looking to create guidelines from scratch, revise existing rules, or simply stay abreast of the latest prevention methods- maintaining up-to-date HR policies will help soothe employees’ fears about returning to work and defend your organization against costly fines during the COVID-19 era.

Let’s take a look at COVID-19’s latest impact on employee handbooks and what to include in your policies for the days ahead.

Compliance Update on Antibody Testing

As of last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a statement recognizing antibody testing as a form of medical exam and a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the ADA, excluding an employee with a disability is strictly prohibited unless an incontestable risk is being posed by that individual.

Due to CDC concerns about antibody testing not being a viable diagnosis method, the EEOC changed their stance and dismissed antibody testing as a valid method for determining whether to allow an employee to enter a work space. As the EEOC may adjust their position on this issue in the future, make sure to re-assess your policies and update them if need be.

What to Cover in Your Employee Handbook

With so many additional variables to keep track of, it may be in your best interest to create an all-encompassing addendum for COVID-related policies and changes. Consider the following elements as you construct or modify each section:

  • Symptom Checking and Health Screening: Outline requirements related to temperature checking, diagnostic testing, and the use of questionnaires for determining whether an employee has or has been exposed to COVID-19. Remember to exclude antibody testing as part of these procedures for proper ADA compliance.
  • Robust Health and Safety Policy: To ensure a safe work environment, make sure to not only clarify mask requirements, handwashing procedures, facility sanitation measures, social distancing rules, and any operational changes which might impact your employees’ daily tasks- but the consequences for failing to comply with these rules as well. Reference all CDC guidelines as a best practice.
  • Standards for Remote Work: Reducing COVID-19 exposure requires flexible attendance policies and work-from-home options for your back of office workers, so make sure to fully address them within your employee handbook. Focus on how employees qualify for various accommodations and the expectations for working in such circumstances.
  • Protected Leave: Establish a well-constructed policy around sick leave to encourage workers to stay home if they suspect they’ve contracted COVID-19 or have come in contact with the virus. This helps reinforce a sense of security that your business is prepared to manage absent employees and accommodate compliantly. Make sure to address applicable Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) rules specifically.
  • Communication Plans and Methods: One of the most important things to add to your employee handbook is the ways in which you plan to communicate with your employees during various situations. For instance, should someone test positive, they will need to know exactly what to expect in terms of how and when you plan to contact them throughout each stage of the subsequent process.
  • Customized Guidelines: Outline any potential procedures that may become necessary to your company and industry. This could include specific rules on managing worksite visitors, international travel, technology or biometric confidentiality, and more. Whatever unique circumstances may be experiencing, make sure they are reflected in your COVID-19 employee handbook policies.

Need Help with Your Handbook?

When you choose EPAY Systems, you’re choosing more than just a workforce management system or payroll provider. You’re choosing a team of HR and technology experts whose goal is to successfully guide your business through ongoing compliance changes and hourly workforce obstacles with ease.

We provide competitive software solutions for boosting ROI, access to premium HR-consulting services, and regular updates on hourly workforce compliance and workforce management news (check out our COVID-19 resource page). Download our Free Employee Handbook and request a demo today!

Filed Under: Compliance COVID-19 Human Resources