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Brett Bartlett, partner with the law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, comments on issues that employers will face as their employees return to work from lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision on which employees to bring back to the workplace is a vital one that must be made with great care. Changing laws and regulations at the federal, state and local level must be taken into account. The goal is to meet all regulatory requirements while ensuring the health and safety of employees and customers.
The first consideration for businesses is to how to build out their infrastructure as staff returns to work. Some companies might have been maintaining minimal operations, while others were closed altogether. They need to figure out which workers are needed to start up I.T. networks, and promulgate new policies on workplace safety. In addition, they must determine how they will communicate with their markets. Individuals responsible for marketing, public relations and messaging must be able to explain what the company is doing, and why.
There’s no one solution to providing a safe workplace in a post-pandemic environment. Testing all returning employees would be an effective tactic, but not every company will have access to the requirement equipment for that purpose. What’s crucial to all businesses, however, is ensuring that employees are treated in a safe manner. How that’s done will vary from company to company, depending on whether it’s an office, retail location, service provider or manufacturer.
In the early days of the return, social distancing might still need to be practiced. Also of concern is the issue of employer liability, in the event that returning employees contract the virus. If the reopening was directed by government authorities, is the private employer legally responsible for that worker’s condition? Expect to see laws around this issue developing as new opening orders are issued, Bartlett says.
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