Leadership During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Stay in Touch – From a Distance

These are tough times and your team members are looking to you for guidance and reassurance.  How you lead now will determine your success months or even years down the road. Working remotely can lead to isolation for some employees – here are a few tips for staying connected with your remote employees during these trying times:

Connect Daily with Your Remote Workforce

Connect daily with your team members by phone or online meetings.  You can reach out to the entire team together through an online a meeting or you can speak to your employees individually.  What matters is that you and your team stay connected daily.

Listen – Especially to At-Risk Employees

Do you have employees with volatile home environments? Employees recovering from drug or alcohol abuse? Employees experiencing serious financial difficulties? Reach out to these at-risk employees individually and let them know you are available to listen.  Be sure to refer them to your company’s Employee Assistance Program or to community resources. 

Be Patient

Many of your remote employees have kids running through the house while they are trying to work.  Be patient with background noise, interruptions and extend deadlines, when possible.

Don’t Give Medical Advice

Resist the temptation to tell your employees about the latest information you read on the internet or heard on TV.  If your employees ask for medical advice, refer them to the CDC or to their personal physicians.

Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep

Your employees are worried about their futures.  They may ask if the company is going to survive and whether they will have jobs. Your best response may be to communicate that the company’s leaders are doing all they can to help ensure the company stays strong and promise to keep them updated as soon as you have information to share.

Create a Covid-19 Action Plan

The details of your Action Plan will be impacted by the size of your business and the industry you’re in.  Here are the key components that most small to mid-sized businesses will need to include:

  1. Identify Committee Members: include key decision makers who can take action on HR, IT, safety and operations
  2. Create a Communication Strategy: determine how you will communicate with team members and who will be responsible for communicating with whom.
  3. Create a teleworking policy if you don’t already have one. Disseminate the policy and ensure employee understanding.
  4. Create an Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Family/Medical Leave policy based on the law that will take affect 4/2/2020. Communicate with your employees about this policy. Post the notice requirement in a conspicuous place in the office.
  5. Create a Coronavirus safety and mitigation plan for those employees required to work in the office. Consult the CDC, OSHA, the DOL and the EEOC for guidance.
  6. Create an IT protocol for an emergency shut down (now ordered in many states). Determine if employees will continue to access Company networks and email.

Department of Homeland Security Announces Flexibility Regarding I-9 Documents

DHS and ICE have relaxed the physical inspection requirements of documents required under the I-9 form. These documents are required to show proof of eligibility to work in the United Sates for newly hired employees and for employees requiring recertification for documents containing an expiration date.

Starting immediately, employers will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence for those employers who have created remote working arrangements. However, employers must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely (e.g., over video link, fax or email, etc.) and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents, within three business.

Employers also should enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the Section 2 Additional Information field once physical inspection takes place after normal operations resume. Once the documents have been physically inspected, the employer should add “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection to the Section 2 additional information field on the Form I-9, or to section 3 as appropriate. These provisions may be implemented by employers for a period of 60 days from May 20, 2020 OR within 3 business days after the termination of the National Emergency, whichever comes first.

This provision only applies to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are granted.

Employers who avail themselves of this option must provide written documentation of their remote onboarding and telework policy for each employee.

Important Links

OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

Department of Labor (DOL) Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

https://www.eeoc.gov/

Centers for Disease Control Resources

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html

Homeland Security Announces Flexibility Regarding I-9 Compliance

https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/dhs-announces-flexibility-requirements-related-form-i-9-compliance

 

Reminder of the Need for Policies Addressing Emergency Paid Sick Leave, Emergency Family/Medical Leave and Remote Onboarding/Telework

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave Acts take effect April 2, 2020.  Now is the time to create your policies and communicate with your employees. Written policies will ensure fair and consistent compliance minimizing compliance risks.

Additionally, employers seeking to avail themselves of the relaxed I-9 requirements must have a documented remote onboarding and telework policies.

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