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Preparing Your Business for the Uncertain Future of COVID-19

Written by Zana Tomich on August 3, 2020 Category: Coronavirus, Employment Law, General Counsel and Advice, Small Businesses

COVID-19 has taken Michigan business owners on an emotional and financial rollercoaster. First we responded to the Coronavirus crisis. Then we tried to keep our businesses running and employees employed. As shelter in place orders were rescinded, we navigated our way back to business. Now, we need to prepare for what’s next. The trouble is, no one knows exactly what that will be. Will there be another surge? Another stay at home order? Or will we steadily ascend to the “new normal” that seems to be discussed so often?

Smart business owners will want to prepare for any of those scenarios. And while it’s impossible to say what the future holds, it is possible to do some things to get your Michigan business’ prepared so you are ready for any contingency.

These are some actions Michigan employers should take as they prepare for the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic:

The first category of actions involve employee considerations.

  • Update employee handbook to clarify new health screening requirements; PPE policies; remote working policies; review policies and practices compliance with new FFCRA leave policies, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Fair Labor Standards Act; and consider updating paid leave policies.
  • Prepare for conducting health pre-screenings or self-screenings of employees. This is required by local, county, and state governments.
  • Plan to communicate expectations, metrics, and new policies to employees who may have suffered illness or loss, or may have to return to work with no child care given school and daycare closures.
  • Determine whether you could stagger days on which employees work on-site v. remotely (if available) to reduce the number of employees at the workplace on any given day.
  • Confirm expectations for employees to disinfect their own workspace before they start work (telephone, computer keyboard, door handles).
  • Consider supply needs if employees are not able to share equipment. Or, plan to provide disinfecting procedures between use.
  • Develop a visitor policy, or if the business is public facing, develop procedures for how to serve the public while observing social distancing.

In conjunction with preparing for employees’ return, employers must also prepare the physical work environment.

  • Determine the exposure risk level for the business and consider the OSHA Guidance on Preparing the Workplace for Covid-19.
  • Depending on the exposure risk of the business, disinfecting the space by a professional sanitization company may be advised. Have a vendor lined up to perform this service in case it needs to be done on short notice. Even if it is unlikely there was work-related exposure, this provides a peace of mind for employees and customers.
  • Stock up on personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, sanitizer, and disinfectant for each employee and visitor, in addition to handwashing stations, soap, and water. Review policies on how/when masks must be worn and be prepared to adapt them if they are overtaken by local and county government rules.
  • Prepare to provide more space between workspaces and plexiglass barriers for areas with person-to-person contact if needed.
  • Establish policies for limiting the number of people permitted in common areas (kitchen, break room, etc.).

Uncertainty can be unsettling for employers, employees, and customers alike.  The best advice is to plan ahead as much as possible, stay agile and be willing to adapt to the circumstances. If your organization needs a review of its practices and policies please contact me to discuss how we can assist you.

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The business and employment attorneys of Dalton & Tomich take your business just as seriously as you do. Attorneys Zana Tomich and Noel Sterett are trusted by closely held family businesses and others across Michigan and Northern Illinois as invaluable partners and counselors. We guarantee all your calls and emails will be returned within one business day so you can focus on what you do best: running your business.