The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything about the workforce. Positions that were once strictly onsite became hybrid or remote. Revenue plummeted, and tough decisions were made about keeping staff on furlough or laying employees off completely. Unemployment became unnavigable, and even those who thought they had a handle on paid sick leave found out they were in for a surprise. Legislation passed at lightning speed and agency guidance tried to keep up. COVID-19 was the perfect storm for employers, and as it moves into the endemic stage, employers must be particularly careful not to forget the lessons learned over the past two years.
Employers must continue to be aware of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and its state counterparts, as well as state and local paid sick leave laws, as we prepare ourselves for the possibility of another global pandemic. All employee handbooks should contain the policies that apply to employers of their size in their jurisdiction as a foundation for dealing with employee illness and the need for public health related leave. Employers also must stay alert and check with counsel in the event that pandemic-specific laws, such as the FFCRA and the CARES act begin to fundamentally alter the ways in which employers provide time off work due to illness. Should another pandemic occur, it is certain that new legislation will be immediately enacted and only legal counsel will be able to provide the guidance you need.
Some lessons learned during the pandemic can carry over past the peak stages. Employers interested in requiring employees to get the flu vaccine can use the lessons learned from the ADA regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. There are always federal forms to complete and retain for recordkeeping purposes, and hour and dollar limits that must be tracked by payroll. Employers must make sure that they have the capacity to complete these functions at all times.
Contact the expert employment law attorneys for assistance in preparing your company for compliance now and in the future, whatever it may hold.
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