Throughout the country small businesses – like those in the snow and ice management industry – are facing unprecedented operational challenges as they deal with COVID-19 or the coronavirus.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses recently devoted an entire webinar to assist employers in responding to COVID-19, including offering some legal insight and human resource guidelines to assist employers. CLICK HERE to listen to the entire webinar.
“The situation created by the coronavirus is a very fluid one and it is literally changing day by day,” says presenter Elizabeth Milito, senior executive counsel, Legal Foundation, NFIB. “There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for businesses to respond to this situation.
“Flexibility in responding to this is key depending on your size, your industry and where you’re located in the country,” she adds.
One important human resource item small business need to now about concerns how the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is impacted by the pandemic. The ADA prohibits employers from asking employees about their health and medical condition.
“However, the Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace guidance that was issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a few years ago provides that during a pandemic exceptions to the ADA’s restrictions on employer health inquiries are allowed,” Milito says. “At this time, employers can inquire about any employees’ potential infection with the disease and related travel. You can also ask about the potential infection of a family member and that will not implicate the ADA. So you do have a little more flexibility with the ADA at this time.”
The NFIB also outlined some key steps employers should be doing.
- Communicate with employees, customers and suppliers/vendors. “It’s important to keep open lines of communication since circumstances are changing rapidly as the outbreak spreads,” says Holly Wade, director, NFIB Research Center.
- Take steps to protect your business from workforce or economic disruptions. Check with suppliers, identify contracts implicated (force majeure event), determine key financial risks including a landlord, bank and vendors. “It’s important to check in with your bank and your small business loan officer as preventative and cautionary measures to see what might be available to you if there is a disruption in your business,” Wade says.
- Check insurance (business interruption) policies for coverage. Many insurance plans don’t cover pandemics or disease but it’s worth a review of your policy or a quick call to your agent to be prepared.
- Create or review HR policies to make sure they fit any potential outbreak disruption including PTO time, sick leave, or telework opportunities. Consider “relaxing” or modifying policies depending on current CDC and public health recommendations. Be flexible. “Flexibility is the mantra here,” Wade adds.
- Assess your ability to support alternative work arrangements including telework, staggered shifts, and reduced hours.
- Evaluate your ability to access your facility during a major outbreak in your area. Consider alternative work facilities