For many, concerns remain about the risk of contracting COVID-19 once back in the workplace. It's a serious issue for a workforce that is more stressed than ever. And besides real fears about getting sick, a Gallup poll found a majority of American adults working from home would prefer to continue doing so “as much as possible” after the pandemic. Though telecommuting is mostly an option for white collar workers, more than 62% of employed Americans currently say they have worked from home during the crisis, a number that has doubled since mid-March 2020.1

To help companies prepare, we’ve put together a list of the top questions employees are asking about returning to work.

“I feel uncomfortable returning to work. What are my options?"

  • An important first step is to have a conversation with your employee and actively listen to their specific concerns. Determine if they’re reasonable.
  • Determine if you’ve already addressed your employee’s concerns or have set plans. For a quick plan on safely returning to work, take a look at our employer checklist.
  • Review and comply with ongoing guidance issued by  the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • Consider (or continue) remote work options and explore alternative duties and responsibilities that can be performed from home.
  • Employees can only refuse to return to work if they believe they are in immediate danger, the hazard cannot be fixed by the employer, and there is no way to do the job safely.2

“How are you protecting employees more vulnerable to COVID-19?”

  • Have a plan to protect your high-risk employees (e.g., older adults, those with underlying conditions resulting in immunocompromise, and pregnant women).
  • Stay compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): review Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance on reasonable accommodations for disabled employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • If a health care provider advises an employee to self-quarantine because they are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, an employer should look to applicable law to determine any leave requirement and whether they will otherwise choose to voluntarily provide leave.3The American Rescue Plan has extended the FFCRA’s availability of tax credits to qualifying employers through September 30, 2021. This includes renewed leave allotment for employees who previously exhausted their time before April 1,2021.
  • Consider altered worksite arrangements for employees who request it, such as remote work or time off from work.
  • Modify your workspace to allow employees to maintain appropriate distance from customers and other employees, such as using Plexiglas separators or other barriers between workstations.

“Are you providing personal protective gear?”

“If I feel sick, can my employer ask about my symptoms?”

  • Yes. According to guidelines from the CDC and under the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are allowed to ask employees what symptoms they are experiencing during a pandemic and restrict them from coming into the workplace.4
  • Employers are allowed to take employee temperatures. Information collected must remain confidential.
  • According to current CDC guidelines, employees should not return until at least 10 days have passed since symptoms onset and at least 24 hours have passed since the resolution of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.5

“Can my company make me come back to work if I don’t have child care?”

  • Since the FFCRA expired on December 31, 2020, covered employers are no longer required to provide emergency family and medical leave, however, they may be subject to state law requirements or voluntarily choose to provide leave at their discretion.
  • To help offset the expense of providing emergency leave and paid benefits, private companies are eligible to receive a tax credit for $200 per day of care that an employee has taken off to care for others from April 1 – September 30, 2021.7 

For more information, please visit our COVID-19 resource center at guardianlife.com/coronavirus.

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