It would be too easy to dwell on the many bad things that happened during 2020 and the lasting impact the pandemic will have on all of us. Instead, let’s focus on the positivity that will carry us into the future.
- We have learned to appreciate the people we used to take for granted, those who work to make our lives better – teachers, health care providers, truck drivers, delivery people of all types, grocery store clerks, and other “essential” workers.
- The human spirit, even when challenged, can find a way to make the best of difficult situations – restaurants partnered with schools to provide lunches for children in need or developed take-out and catering options; businesses made vacant office space available to provide school and/or daycare alternatives for employees’ children; people mastered technology to work and meet remotely; businesses repurposed to make masks, face shields and other pandemic necessities; retail businesses increased their online presence, etc.
- When we work together, we can do amazing things. Multiple coronavirus vaccines were developed in an incredibly short period of time and are in the process of being approved and shipped throughout the world.
Thinking ahead to 2021, here are some things that business owners should be prepared for:
- Paid sick leave and childcare leave provided by the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will expire on December 31, 2020.
- Once coronavirus vaccines become available to the general public, can you, or should you, require employees to be vaccinated? Probably, but it depends …
- Businesses that serve at-risk clients (healthcare, nursing homes, childcare, etc.) absolutely may require vaccinations due to the direct threat to co-workers and clients.
- Businesses that require vaccinations should have a written policy and must allow exceptions for employees who cannot be vaccinated due to disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs.
- Employees with a legitimate reason not to be vaccinated may be required to wear masks in the workplace and, if they refuse to do so, the employer has the option to terminate employment. “At-will” employment means employers have a legal right to make reasonable workplace policies (such as dress codes) and to enforce them. However, employers need to be very careful to document that they engaged in an interactive process with the employee and tried to find a reasonable accommodation and that the termination is due to failure to comply with company policy, not because of the disability or religious belief.
- Rather than force employees to get vaccinated against coronavirus, the general recommendation is to “strongly encourage” employees to do so by offering incentives, for example, paid time off to get vaccinated or a gift card for proof of vaccination. If vaccinations are required by the company, the employer must pay employees for the time it takes to get the vaccine.
- Employee medical information, including vaccination records and requests for exceptions to mandatory vaccination policies, must be kept confidential and retained separately from other personnel records.
- Additional guidance from the government may be forthcoming as the vaccines are distributed.
- For some businesses, remote work may continue to be an option, allowing the company to reduce overhead expenses for workspace. Virtual employees require a different type of supervision and performance expectations may need to be updated.
- President-elect Joe Biden has said that one of his top priorities will be to increase the federal minimum wage.
- Affordable health care, with a public option as well as employer-sponsored plans, will also be a priority for the new administration.
Don’t’ be caught unprepared when the clock strikes midnight on December 31 and we welcome in the new year. An HR professional can help you with all of your human resources needs. From hiring the right employees, running background checks, creating employee handbooks that include anti-harassment policies and procedures, and so much more, Next Level Solutions can work with you to provide the services that you need to run your business.