The direct and indirect impact of the global, COVID-19 pandemic increased the complexity of many key parts of operating a business, especially for HR and other business leaders. With the pandemic came many new regulations that had to be quickly understood and properly implemented. As a result, compliance and HR risk management became even more challenging.
For HR professionals, having access to the right technology and compliance-related services or resources can help your company continue to weather the storm even as the overall economic and work environment remains uncertain for the foreseeable future.
Assess the risks for your business
To develop your risk management plan, you will have to begin identifying risks your business specifically faces now and in the indefinite future. Using the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis method is wise, Forbes noted. Some of these, of course, are connected to hazards faced by the organization as a whole – with the health of staff being the most obvious of these – but it’s critical that you look at them as matters of human resource management.
Health: According to the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, 90% of employers have begun to implement a phase-by-phase strategy for gradually bringing their staff back to conventional in-office operations (or plan to do so in the immediate future).
From an HR perspective, this is okay as long as it’s done in accordance with all applicable federal, state and local laws. Compliance with such laws may mean supplying all in-office staff with personal protective equipment, setting up additional hand-sanitizing or -washing stations, requiring at least six feet of distance between each employee, having alternate shifts and capping the number of staff in an office at any given time. Covering all of these bases puts you in a good position to keep in line with pertinent laws while also addressing the central health risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in your company and mitigating the likelihood of such an incident.
Employee morale: Even if you were able to retain all employees, having them work from home with little or no reduction in salary, there’s no doubt that they went through plenty of stress while under quarantine, whether doctor-ordered, state-mandated or voluntary. Morale may be low to start, or at least below its pre-pandemic average. Being compassionate whenever possible is always the best move, rather than expecting staff to behave as if everything is normal. Pushing them to “just work through it,” even in a time of high unemployment, increases the risk of employee turnover. Also, according to Human Resource Executive, it is also not a good idea to make changes to benefits packages.
If you bring back furloughed or laid-off employees, your turnover risk may be slightly higher. While they may appreciate having their jobs back, they also remember being eliminated, even if temporarily and may now have their eyes open for other opportunities. Such cases must be approached very delicately: your HR team wants to make them feel comfortable in the workplace again (physically or remotely) while also ensuring they remain key contributors to productivity.
Liability: During a webinar on the topic of post-pandemic returns to work, attorney Eric Meyer of FisherBroyles LLP predicted a significant jump in lawsuits against employers: Some may be allegations of workplace safety violations, while others may center around noncompliance with new post-COVID employment laws (which we’ll address in greater detail below). Liability will always be an HR risk management concern, but for the immediate future, you and your HR team should consider that risk highly elevated.
Understand new regulations
Not long after many businesses switched to remote operations or temporarily closed, various pieces of legislation emerged to address the economic impact of the pandemic. Two in particular must be closely followed to avoid creating unnecessary risk.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act: This act mandates two weeks of full paid leave for employees under quarantine or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, leave equal to 2/3 pay for those caring for someone with COVID-19 and up to 12 weeks leave at 2/3 pay for childcare (or 10 weeks at 2/3 after two weeks full-salary leave). It remains in effect until Dec. 31, 2020. Since businesses that must make FFCRA payouts will receive tax credits, there’s no reason to deny requests made under this act unless you can prove it’s being misused.
Paycheck Protection Program: If applying for a loan through this program (which was available through June 30), 75% of it must go to payroll. The PPP is under considerable scrutiny after businesses few would call “small,” ranging from Shake Shack to the Los Angeles Lakers, received loans under it, so HR must be careful to distribute any PPP resources properly.
Additionally, it’s important to monitor how these laws overlap with existing regulations (the ACA, OSHA standards, HIPAA and the ADA, among others) and make sure following one never puts you at risk of conflicting with another.
Adopt better HR risk management technology
Knowing and following regulations is all well and good, but you can’t truly manage risk without the right tools. PeopleStrategy’s hire-to-retire HR technology suite offers Cloud-based tools to manage recruiting, onboarding, payroll, attendance, benefits and performance reviews – whether you are working from home or in an office. Through our extensive partner network, we also offer single-sign-on access to the ThinkHR risk management platform through our eHCM solution, allowing you to instantly speak with experts via phone or chat and have all your compliance questions answered. We’ve always been here for the HR needs or our clients, and now the range of resources we offer is even broader through this partnership.