What to Do When Scared Workers Don’t Report to Work Due to COVID-19

Throughout the globe, many are terrified of contracting the communicable disease, the coronavirus. With this being said, many essential workers are refusing to go to work with that fear in their minds. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Some essential workers are refusing to come to work out of fear of contracting the coronavirus. Their employers must weigh the employees' legal rights and understandable health concerns with the organizations' business needs. It can be a tough balancing act.

"A good first step for an employer to respond to an essential worker who's expressing fears of returning to work is to actively listen to the employee and have a conversation," said Brian McGinnis, an attorney with Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia. "What are their specific concerns? Are they reasonable?"

McGinnis said that employers should consider whether it already has addressed those concerns or if additional steps are needed. Often, having a conversation with the employee "will avoid an unneeded escalation," he said.

Employees' Legal Rights

What if that doesn't work? Tread cautiously, as employees have many legal protections.

An employer usually can discipline workers for violating its attendance policy. But there are exceptions to that rule, noted Robin Samuel, an attorney with Baker McKenzie in Los Angeles. Putting hesitant employees on leave may be a better choice than firing them.

Christine Snyder, an attorney with Tucker Ellis in Cleveland, cautioned, "If an employer permits employees to use vacation or PTO [paid time off] for leave, it may soon find itself without a workforce sufficient to maintain operations. Therefore, an employer may want to rely upon the terms of its existing time-off policy, which typically requires approval to use vacation or PTO, to require that leave for this reason be unpaid."

OSH Act

Employees can refuse to work if they reasonably believe they are in imminent danger, according to the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. They must have a reasonable belief that there is a threat of death or serious physical harm likely to occur immediately or within a short period for this protection to apply.

Samuel explained that an employee can refuse to come to work if:

  • The employee has a specific fear of infection that is based on fact—not just a generalized fear of contracting COVID-19 infection in the workplace.
  • The employer cannot address the employee's specific fear in a manner designed to ensure a safe working environment.

NLRA

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) grants employees at unionized and nonunionized employers the right to join together to engage in protected concerted activity. Employees who assert such rights, including by joining together to refuse to work in unsafe conditions, are generally protected from discipline, Samuel noted.

"That said, the refusal must be reasonable and based on a good-faith belief that working conditions are unsafe," said Bret Cohen, an attorney with Nelson Mullins in Boston.

ADA

Employers should accommodate employees who request altered worksite arrangements, remote work or time off from work due to underlying medical conditions that may put them at greater risk from COVID-19, Samuel said.

The EEOC's guidance on COVID-19 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) notes that accommodations may include changes to the work environment to reduce contact with others, such as using Plexiglas separators or other barriers between workstations.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, unlike the ADA, does not have a reasonable-accommodation requirement, pointed out Isaac Mamaysky, an attorney with Potomac Law Group in New York City. Nonetheless, he "would encourage employers to be flexible in response to leave requests from vulnerable employees," such as older essential workers, as the right thing to do and to bolster employee relations.

FFCRA

If a health care provider advises an employee to self-quarantine because the employee is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the employee may be eligible for paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), Cohen noted. The FFCRA applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees, and the quarantine must prevent the employee from working or teleworking.

FFCRA regulations permit employers to require documentation for paid sick leave, noted John Hargrove, an attorney with Bradley in Birmingham, Ala.

Employers may relax documentation requirements due to the difficulty some employees could have obtaining access to medical providers during the pandemic and to encourage ill employees to stay away from work, said Pankit Doshi, an attorney with McDermott Will & Emery in San Francisco.

Hazard Pay

Although not currently mandated by federal law, hazard pay—extra pay for doing dangerous work—might be appropriate for an employer to offer to essential workers, McGinnis said.

If hazard pay is offered, similarly situated employees should be treated the same, he said. Otherwise, the employer risks facing a discrimination claim.

Andrew Turnbull, an attorney with Morrison & Foerster in McLean, Va., noted that companies with multistate operations may have legitimate reasons for offering hazard pay to employees working at locations with a high risk of exposure and not where the risk is minimal.

Hazard pay might be a good choice for public-facing jobs, where employees may not be able to observe social distancing, said Román Hernández, an attorney with Troutman Sanders in Portland, Ore.

Some localities require hazard pay in some circumstances, Doshi noted. These localities include Augusta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., and Kanawha County, W.Va.

Inform and Protect Workers

Lindsay Ryan, an attorney with Polsinelli in Los Angeles, said that employers should keep employees apprised of all measures the employer is taking to maintain a safe workplace, consistent with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and local health authorities.

If employers have the means to do so, they should screen employees each day by taking their temperatures and send workers who have fevers home, Snyder said. Alternatively, employers can require employees to take their own temperatures before reporting to work, she added.

"Finally, in light of recent CDC guidance regarding the use of cloth masks to prevent infection, employers should allow employees to wear masks in the workplace and consider providing employees with cloth masks if they are able to acquire them," she said.

SOURCE: Smith, A. (20 April 2020) "What to Do When Scared Workers Don’t Report to Work Due to COVID-19" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/coronavirus-when-scared-workers-do-not-report-to-work.aspx

Viewpoint: How to Lead in a Crisis

As many leaders have been faced with uncertainty during the trying times the coronavirus pandemic brought upon them, it's important for them to lead with the advantage that the uncertainty can bring. Read this blog post to learn more.


Despite a host of warnings about the impending COVID-19 crisis, it caught most of us by surprise. I recall attending the regular leadership team meetings of a few of my clients the week of March 9, and by March 15, the world had changed. It was no longer a potential crisis; it was a full-on global pandemic where new terms such as "social distancing" and "flattening the curve" became part of our lexicon. A spectrum of responses emerged, from reactive chaos to deploying well-practiced business continuity modes.

The challenge that leaders face in a crisis is that their organizations aren't typically set up to operate with such uncertainty. Leaders create visions, plans and metrics to attempt to control their environments and minimize uncertainty as best they can. In a crisis many leaders default to what they know how to do in order to reduce frustration and quell their own and others' fears. This default mode is simply not productive and rather than reduce uncertainty and anxiety, it increases both.

Today all organizations are faced with a new normal—uncertainty and inability to control the environments in which they operate. We know the pandemic will end but it won't truly be over until a vaccine is available. We know the curve will eventually flatten but projections seem to change hourly. We know people will get back to work but we don't know whether social distancing will continue to influence the economy. We know that remote work is possible on a broad scale but it's not clear if this will work long-term.

Ralph Stacey and Douglas Griffin's definition of a leader is one that lends itself to today's environment: "One recognized as a leader has a greater capacity to live with the anxiety of not knowing and not being in control. The leader is recognized as having the courage to carry on interacting productively and creatively despite not knowing." This definition certainly applies to today's environment of tremendous uncertainty and great anxiety. Clearly there is much we don't know about what the future will hold. It is also clear that leadership today requires an ability to embrace uncertainty and interact productively.

While it's a relatively small sample size, we have been amazed by the approaches our clients have taken to navigate their way through these challenging times. None have had an easy time, and some were certainly more prepared than others, but most have quickly overcome their natural tendency to control and shifted to doing their best to operate in crisis mode. In each case a few important themes emerged for how to embrace the uncertainty – humility, transparency, engagement, focus and patience.

Positive humility. In their own ways, each CEO acknowledged their fear about the unknown and that they didn't have all the answers, but they exuded a sense of calmness and confidence in their organizations to work smart and hard to get through the crisis. By reinforcing and modeling positive humility CEOs have established a tone for their leadership teams to cascade throughout their organizations.

Transparency. CEOs and their leadership teams are proactively communicating difficult information openly and being clear when they don't have answers to important questions. For example, they are not promising that no jobs will be lost but they are committing to pursuing all avenues necessary such as the SBA CARES Loans to secure jobs as long as possible.

Engagement. When in doubt these organizations are doing their best to negotiate clear expectations (i.e., daily check-in sessions with supervisors) and over-communicate (i.e., using email, internal web site and supervisors to reinforce that hourly workers will be paid weekly). They are also encouraging managers and staff to use multiple channels to remain in contact both formally and informally (i.e., Virtual Team Meetings, Virtual happy hours, random watercooler calls).

Focus. After a short period of getting their remote offices working, CEOs and their leadership teams redoubled their efforts to ensure their organizations remained focused on the core mission (i.e., executing loans, building interiors, registering / renewing members). They also reinforced that today's plans would likely change tomorrow and that learning from mistakes and helping employees and customers manage uncertainty is a big part of their jobs.

Patience. In a crisis adults often revert to overdone strengths – people who are naturally decisive might become arrogant or people who tend to be naturally empathetic might become overly protective. These CEOs and their leadership teams recognize this tendency to revert. They are working hard to have patience with each other by giving space, not overreacting themselves and providing gentle feedback.

These are extremely challenging times and despite efforts by the smartest scientists, economists and business leaders in the world, there is no clear path to when things will get back to normal. Ambiguity is a daily obstacle for most business leaders, but today we are dealing with ambiguity on steroids. It is not easy but we are so encouraged to see so many CEOs and their leadership teams embrace the ambiguity to help their organizations get to the other side of this crazy time.

Jack McGuinness is co-founder and managing partner of Relationship Impact, a consulting firm focused on helping great leaders build great leadership teams.

This article is excerpted from www.ChiefExecutive.net with permission from Chief Executive. C 2020. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: McGuinness, J. (20 April 2020) "Viewpoint: How to Lead in a Crisis" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/Viewpoint-How-to-Lead-in-a-Crisis-Coronavirus.aspx


COVID-19 Changes Internships, Apprenticeships

As the coronavirus pandemic has put a restriction on many plans, it's also raised concerns for organizations with internship and apprenticeship programs for early career development opportunities. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Travel restrictions and social-distancing mandates prompted by COVID-19 are causing organizations to rethink their approach to apprenticeships and internships, which typically involve hands-on, in-person participation.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is seeing a steady push toward moving internships online or limiting them in size and duration. A quick unscientific poll it conducted April 3 with 130 of its employer members provided insight on how members are adapting their programs:

  • 35 percent are making no changes to their program.
  • 35 percent are reducing the length of internships by delaying the start date.
  • 29 percent are moving to a virtual program.
  • 20 percent are moving events such as end-of-program presentations online.
  • 15 percent are reducing the number of interns.

Some organizations are considering micro-internships that condense a 10-to-12-week internship into a one-to-two-week experience later in the summer, said Bruce Soltys, head of talent acquisition sourcing strategy at The Travelers Companies based in Hartford, Conn. It has a 450-person internship program at 25 locations throughout the U.S.

He was among speakers at a panel discussion on internships that NACE hosted April 2.

"Companies might put a little bit more of an emphasis on training and development where [interns] are really focused on the learning and development piece and not so much on a personal project," Soltys said.

"From a change management perspective, we've presented the case to our senior leaders to say, 'If we have to go down this path from a virtual-work standpoint, the main question is, can this work be done virtually?' I think a lot of managers are not comfortable with the notion of interns doing the work virtually because [interns] are so new to the organization."

SAS, a computer software company outside of Raleigh, N.C., has a seven-figure investment in its internship program, said Kayla Woitkowski, a university recruiter leader for SAS who spoke on the NACE panel. Her employer is "making sure that any internship that does go virtual … the students have valuable work" to perform.

She has found, based on phone conversations with other employers, that organizations are taking one of three stances toward internships in light of COVID-19:

  1. Turning their internship program into a virtual one, ensuring that any work interns have been hired to perform can be done remotely.
  2. Canceling internships.
  3. Pushing back start dates.

As organizations wrestle with what to do with their internship programs, it's important that they keep in contact with the students they selected, said David Ong, panel moderator and senior director of corporate recruiting at Maximus. The Washington, D.C.-based company is a health and human services provider for state, federal and local governments.

The organization met with all interns and program associates as a group to assure them that they would keep them up-to-date on the program's status.

"It is also just a chance to keep them engaged," Ong said. "A lot of these students have [other] options."

Online tools can be an internship program's friend, according to Renato Profico, CEO of Doodle, a Zurich-based online scheduling tool.

"They can translate culture into a digital setting to make interns and new hires feel included," said Profico, who has personally invited every employee to a 15-minute virtual coffee meeting over the next few weeks. "These little things are important at a time when employee engagement and retention could dip significantly."

Apprenticeships

Changes prompted by COVID-19 will likely cause companies to be more pragmatic in how they view the role of apprenticeships, said Jennifer Carlson. She is the co-founder and executive director of Apprenti, which operates in 12 states as a fully paid technology apprenticeship program for minorities, veterans and women.

"COVID-19 is going to force companies to be more deliberate and probably see apprenticeships as an equitable pipeline, equivalent with all their talent acquisition pipelines," Carlson said. "Not all jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, for example, require a college degree.

"You can take people from nontraditional [areas] and train them and create a second pipeline [for talent] using apprenticeships."

One such example is the Youth Technology Apprenticeship Camp (YTAC) in Charlotte, N.C., a major technology workforce site in the U.S. Last year, for example, home-improvement company Lowe's announced the creation of a 2,000-employee global tech hub in Charlotte.

The demand for employees with tech skills "is off the charts for these companies," said Tariq Scott Bokhari, Charlotte city councilman and founder of the Carolina Fintech Hub. The Fintech Hub created YTAC and partnered with the city of Charlotte, the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, the Bank of America Foundation and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Apprentices are high-school seniors who earn a credential after completing the four-week program. Those performing above a certain threshold are guaranteed acceptance into the local Workforce Investment Network training program. After successfully completing six months of training, participants are guaranteed a job as a full stack developer with a starting salary of $55,000.

The pandemic prompted a format change to the apprenticeship: It will be entirely virtual. Participants meet in small virtual breakout groups to work on their project, participate in labs, hackathons and livestream competitions and attend virtual training.

Bokhari thinks the altered format will continue in some way after the pandemic is over. With the virtual setup, overhead costs are lower, so more students can be accommodated. It also mirrors what he thinks will be the new reality for work.

"I think things will change forever after this, but it will probably be some mixture of physical and virtual [format]. We want this experience … to mimic the real-life workforce environment. I think the real-life workforce environment is going to change."

SOURCE: Gurchiek, K. (13 April 2020) "COVID-19 Changes Internships, Apprenticeships" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/Pages/COVID19-Causes-Changes-to-Internships-Apprenticeships.aspx


Coronavirus pandemic puts the spotlight on mental health resources

Mental health is a sensitive topic for those who are affected by it, but as businesses begin to close due to COVID-19, certain behaviors and uncertainty has led to an increased amount of anxiety. During this time, mental health is being challenged with balancing the stress of the COVID-19 outbreak and daily lives. Read this blog post to learn more.


Managing mental health in and outside of the office is a challenge for more than half of Americans, but the added stressors of coronavirus are pushing many people to reach out for help.

As attempts are made to quell the spread of COVID-19, companies have mandated employees work remotely and have cancelled conferences, gatherings and other non-essential travel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended implementing “social distancing,” which involves minimizing exposure by avoiding large crowds, working remotely if possible, and practicing personal hygiene like washing your hands frequently.

“Obviously it’s a stressful time, and we’re seeing significant increases in sessions for therapy and psychiatry,” says Russ Glass, CEO of Ginger, a virtual mental health support platform. “The disruption in behavior and the uncertainty has led to a lot of anxiety.”

The increasing severity of the pandemic has many people on edge. The World Health Organization released guidance for dealing with stress and anxiety associated with coronavirus. Among their recommendations: avoid watching the news and implement plans to feel prepared and safe.

“Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that can cause you to feel anxious or distressed — the sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried,” the WHO guidelines say.

But for those with mental health issues, balancing the demands of work with this new reality can add additional stress and make work challenging.

“When people are experiencing fear, they try to exert control in whatever situation they can, but the results are often destructive,” says Ken Zuckerberg, vice president of training at ComPsych, a global EAP provider. “Employees are not performing their best if they’re dealing with feelings of isolation, or fears of being quarantined.”

Eighteen percent of Americans struggle with mental illness, and 61% of employees report their mental health affects their work, according to the CDC. Even in times when external stressors are not as prevalent, these issues lead to productivity loss and absenteeism in the workplace.

“People at work who are dealing with behavioral health issues self-report 20% or greater productivity loss and also develop other chronic health conditions,” Glass says. “Employees are coming to their employer and saying, ‘I need help but our current insurance plan or current EAPs aren't providing the right level of access. I can't get care.’”

Now more than ever, employers need to provide resources that address these mental health issues, Glass says.

“Companies have to be thinking about both physical and mental health and recognize that this is a very stressful time for their employees,” says Glass, whose mental health platform, Ginger, connects users with behavioral health coaches for chat and video-based sessions. Users can seek help from therapists and psychiatrists through the platform. Glass says they’ve reported an 16% increase in session volume and a 10% increase in their daily users in the past two weeks.

For those struggling with anxiety or feelings of isolation because of coronavirus, WHO recommends people maintain their daily routines and reach out for support and connection.

“Even in situations of isolation, try as much as possible to keep your personal daily routines. Stay connected via email, social media, video conference and telephone,” the guidelines say.

Ensuring the mental well-being of all employees, especially in high-stress times, involves providing communication and access to help, Glass says.

“Putting resources in place or communicating the resources you already have in place can be helpful to your employees,” Glass says. “If you're feeling anxious, it’s a good time to reach out to family members or friends or your behavioral health coach and talk through it. Have some outlets to discuss this in a way that's not just social media.”

SOURCE: Place, A. (13 March 2020) "Coronavirus pandemic puts the spotlight on mental health resources" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/coronavirus-pandemic-puts-the-spotlight-on-mental-health-resources


Coronavirus: How Employers Around the Globe Are Responding

Employers are continuously looking out for the safety of their employees and customers. With the spread of COVID-19 becoming faster and more relevant, employers are putting in effect their emergency plans to continue providing safety measures for both employees and customers. Continue Reading this blog post to learn more.


Companies are scrambling to respond as the coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, spreads around the world. During a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) webcast March 10, an official with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked employers to do all they can to slow the coronavirus.

SHRM Online has collected the following news reports that reflect the different ways in which organizations are reacting to protect their employees and their businesses.

Emergency Leave

Walmart to Allow Any Worker Concerned about Coronavirus to Stay Home 'Without Penalty'
Walmart is enacting an emergency leave policy for its 1.4 million hourly US workers that allows them to take time off without penalty if they fear the spread of a new virus. The nation's largest private employer said Tuesday that a worker at its store in Cynthiana, Ken., tested positive for the COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
(New York Post)

Colorado Will Require Paid Sick Leave for Certain Workers in Response to Coronavirus
The state of Colorado will soon require employers to offer paid sick days to hundreds of thousands of service and hospitality workers in response to the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Gov. Jared Polis announced the new policy on Tuesday morning as he declared a state of emergency.
(Colorado Public Radio)

Employee Relief Fund

Amazon Launches $25 Million Relief Fund for Delivery Drivers, Seasonal Employees Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
Amazon is launching a $25 million relief fund for delivery drivers and seasonal workers amid the coronavirus outbreak, it announced March 11.  The aim is to help employees "that are under financial distress during this challenging time," the company said. This includes Amazon Flex drivers and its network of delivery service partners, who handle last-mile package deliveries, as well as seasonal employees, who help the company manage variation in customer demand during peak periods and holidays. Amazon will allow these employees to apply for grants that are equal to up to two weeks of pay if they're diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

(CNBC)

Coronavirus Testing

NYC's Hotel Workers Union to Offer Members Coronavirus Testing
The health insurance plan run by the city's powerful hotel workers union will soon offer more than 90,000 people tests for the coronavirus. About 40,000 workers and 50,000 of their relatives and union retirees are covered by the plan run by the New York Hotel Trades Council.
(New York Daily News)

Closures and Quarantines

Starbucks Closed a Seattle Store after 1st Case of Employee Diagnosed with Coronavirus
Starbucks temporarily closed a Reserve store location in downtown Seattle after an employee was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was quarantined March 6. This is the first case of coronavirus contracted by a Starbucks in-store employee. The company immediately closed the affected store, initiated a deep-clean procedure and sent home employees that had direct contact with the infected partner.
(Nation's Restaurant News)

'No-Contact' Food Delivery Offered

Gig Economy Companies from Uber to Lyft Take Action as Coronavirus Cases Grow
Uber and Lyft are planning to compensate drivers affected by the coronavirus for up to 14 days. Postmates and Instacart have unveiled "no-contact" food delivery. DoorDash is letting customers leave in-app instructions if they prefer orders left at the door. Amazon Flex, which taps independent contractors to make deliveries, doesn't have a policy to compensate drivers and is instead supporting on an "individual, case-by-case basis."
(CNBC)

Teleworking Promoted, Office Visits Restricted

Twitter Tells Employees to Work from Home as Tech Firms React to Coronavirus
Twitter on March 2 became the first major U.S. corporation to strongly encourage its employees to work from home to avoid spreading coronavirus.
(Los Angeles Times)

How IBM, Goldman Sachs, PwC and Others Are Responding to the Coronavirus Threat
IBM, which nearly three years ago ended remote work for some U.S. employees, said Feb. 27 it had asked workers in coronavirus-affected areas to work from home "wherever possible." The guidance was issued for IBM workers in China, Japan, South Korea and Italy. The company also restricted travel to some locations and canceled its in-person participation in the RSA Conference on cybersecurity in San Francisco.
(Washington Post)

Google Tells More than 100,000 North American Employees to Stay Home
Google is telling all of its North American employees to stay home until at least April 10, as the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads, CNBC reported March 10. On March 9, CNBC reported that the company blocked all external visitors from coming into some of its offices, including New York and the San Francisco Bay Area where its Silicon Valley headquarters are located.
(CNBC)

UBS Divvying Up Teams in Switzerland, Having Them Switch Off Teleworking
UBS, the Swiss bank headquartered in Zurich, has begun implementing a split-operations policy in Switzerland this week as part of its coronavirus response. The firm has already implemented a similar policy for its employees across the Asia Pacific region.
(News of the Day)

Cuomo Asks NY Businesses to Split Employee Shifts to Prevent Coronavirus Spread
The State of New York will ask businesses to consider having employees work two shifts and allowing telework, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a CNN interview.
(New York Post)

Domestic and Global Travel Restricted

Ford Bans Employee Travel on Coronavirus Fears
Ford Motor Company told employees March 3 that it is banning all non-essential air travel until at least March 27 because of concerns about the novel coronavirus. Ford had been restricting travel to and from China but has now extended the ban to all flights, both international and within the United States, out of concern for employees' health and safety. There may be exceptions, a Ford spokesperson said, but they will probably be rare.
(The Motley Fool)

Coronavirus Cancellations, Travel Bans
Google on March 3 called off its flagship developers conference, called I/O, which was scheduled for May in Mountain View, Calif. Last year, the three-day event drew 7,000 attendees. The company said it would look for ways to "evolve" the event, raising the possibility of livestreamed or remote sessions. Several other companies and organizations, including the World Bank and the IMF, said they would replace in-person gatherings and meetings with virtual ones.
(NPR)

Coronavirus Conference Gets Canceled Because of Coronavirus
The Council on Foreign Relations canceled a roundtable called "Doing Business Under Coronavirus" scheduled for Friday in New York due to the spread of the infection itself. CFR has also canceled other in-person conferences that were scheduled from March 11 to April 3.
(Bloomberg)

Airlines Cut More Flights, Execs Take Pay Cuts as Coronavirus Takes Toll on Flying
United CEO Oscar Munoz and president Scott Kirby will forgo their base salaries through at least June 30. United also said it was postponing "non-critical" projects requiring capital expenditures, got a $2 billion loan from a group of banks and expects to incur a first-quarter loss. Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said Monday in a message to employees that he would take a 10 percent pay cut and Delta said it is instituting a hiring freeze, taking some planes out of service and retiring older aircraft.
(Herald & Review)

Work Areas Disinfected

How Dallas-Area Restaurants Are Prepping Their Kitchens and Dining Rooms for Coronavirus
Extra hand sanitizer is only part of the effort. Some say food delivery is the next big answer. At one eatery, crews have started sanitizing credit-card pin pads, surface areas and both sides of all door handles more regularly. Like many restaurants, it has put out more hand-sanitizing dispensers and ordered touchless hand sanitizer dispensers to replace manual ones.
(The Dallas Morning News)

Nike Closed Its Worldwide HQ in Oregon for Deep-Cleaning after 1st U.S. Coronavirus Death
Nike announced March 1 it temporarily closed its corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., in order to deep clean the campus following the first US death from COVID-19 the day prior. "While we have no information indicating any exposure to Nike employees, out of an abundance of caution, we are conducting a deep cleaning of campus," a Nike spokesperson told KGW, the Portland, Ore., NBC-affiliated station. "All WHQ buildings and facilities, including fitness centers, will be closed over the weekend."
(Business Insider)

Facebook Shuts London, Singapore Offices for 'Deep Cleaning' After Employee Diagnosed with Coronavirus
Facebook said March 6 it was shutting its London office and part of its Singapore base for "deep cleaning" after an employee in the Asian city state was diagnosed with coronavirus.
(The Economic Times)

SOURCE: Gurchiek, K. (12 March 2020) "Coronavirus: How Employers Around the Globe Are Responding" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/Pages/Coronavirus-How-Employers-Around-the-Globe-Are-Responding.aspx


School and office closures are a logistical nightmare for working parents

While COVID-19 is affecting travel plans and workplaces, it's beginning to have school districts close down to reduce the spread of any germs to children. Although keeping the safety of children a priority, working parents are being faced with challenging situations regarding the care of their children while they are at work. Read this blog post to learn more.


Last weekend, Jannell Nolan woke up to dozens of texts: Elk Grove Unified School District had announced its decision to close all of its 67 Sacramento County schools in California for the next week after a student tested positive for coronavirus.

That sent all four of her kids — two elementary schoolers, a middle schooler and a high schooler — home for the foreseeable future and left her doing full-time childcare. Nolan works for the district, so she's staying home while her husband is working at a nearby Costco Wholesale.

“My kids have playdates planned for the rest of the week,” she said. “I’m not going to keep them locked up all week, I’ll lose my mind.”

It's not ideal, but at least the family has one parent who won’t have to negotiate work and childcare schedules.

In the U.S., having a stay-at-home parent is a luxury that’s proving even more beneficial as schools shutdown and offices send employees home. A majority of American mothers with children younger than 18 are employed and in more than 60% of married couples, both parents work, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With relatively little parental leave, fewer sick days and rigid schedules, working parents in the U.S. have a lot to juggle even when school is in session and everyone is healthy.

Coronavirus is adding new complications for that already stretched-thin demographic. Parents are scrambling to find childcare or figuring out how to be productive at home with kids around. Others are making tough choices between a paycheck and their families’ needs. Anxieties are even creeping up in places where the virus has not yet disrupted daily life.

“People are more stressed around the logistics than the actual disease,” said Elizabeth Gulliver, a mother of one and co-founder of Kunik, a membership-based community for working parents.

Alexa Mareschal, a Salt Lake City-based attorney, said she has “no idea” what she and her husband, who also has a full time job renovating homes, would do if her kids’ daycare is closed because of the virus. She finds it nearly impossible to be productive when working at home with her toddlers. “It’s kind of like trying to wrangle cats,” she said.

If widespread childcare and school closures come to Utah, Mareschal said she and her colleagues have discussed setting up a makeshift daycare for everyone’s kids, where the oldest ones would watch the younger ones. Other than that, she has no plan. “I’ll fly in my mom, I guess?” she said.

Like Mareschal, many working parents not yet affected by school or office closures are worrying about the feasibility of family quarantines. “The idea of being cooped up in my house trying to work with my kids running around for two weeks is not making me happy,” said Rachel Cherkis, a marketing manager for EY and mother of two, who already works remotely in the Miami area full-time. “There’s definitely not enough sound-proofing in my house.”

Brooklyn-based lawyer Colleen Carey Gulliver and her banker husband have started having conversations about what they’ll do if their three-year-old’s school closes. They may have to alternate days off work to watch their toddler. In the case that they both end up quarantined at home, she “might have to rely on TV more than you would like to get some actual time alone.”

In a way, these anxieties are for the privileged: Only 29% of the American workforce can do their jobs from home. To quarantine, most workers would have to take time off and many would forgo pay. Mendy Hughes, a single mother of four, has been working at a Walmart in Malvern, Arkansas, for the past decade and now makes a little more than $11 an hour. Not only is the 45-year-old cashier concerned about getting sick with the virus herself, she’s worried about what she’ll have to do if her kids, the youngest of whom is 10, had to stay home from school.

“I don’t know what I would do if they had to be on extended leave,” said Hughes, who is also a member of the Walmart watchdog organization United for Respect. “I’m a single parent so I really can’t afford to miss work.”

The U.S. is one of the only industrialized countries without federal paid sick leave. In light of the pandemic, President Donald Trump is expected to sign an order that would give some to hourly workers. Walmart this week also tweaked its own policy and now offers up to two weeks pay to employees who contract the virus or those who have to quarantine. These programs don’t necessarily cover the illness of a child or school closures.

No matter the situation, much of the care-taking and household burdens would likely fall to women, further exacerbating gender inequality. A 2017 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that working mothers are more likely to take care of sick kids than working fathers. Among mothers surveyed, about 40% said they’re the ones who take care of a sick child, compared to 10% of fathers surveyed. Women with young children also do twice as much childcare as men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They also do more cooking, cleaning, and laundry. This all contributes to the so-called “motherhood penalty,” which accounts for the bulk of the gender pay gap.

There may, however, be long-term benefits to this experiment, Gulliver, the Kunik co-founder said. She’s hopeful that this experience will change some of the harmful stereotypes around working parents that tend to hurt women.

“If you were not visibly pregnant at the office for all nine months of your pregnancy, a lot of people don’t even know that you’re a parent,” Gulliver said, explaining that’s the case for fathers, adoptive parents and step parents, among others. “Being forced to work from home and having kids pop up in the back of screens is going to show that you don’t necessarily need to hide that you have a kid.” This visibility could push employers to support the needs of employees with children.

Still employers can’t fix everything. Marketing manager Cherkis, who already telecommutes full time, said that despite the fact that her husband is the stay-at-home parent to their two kids, some things still fall to her.

“At the end of the day I’m mom, and sick kids want to be with mom,” Cherkis said. “That’s the truth of it."

SOURCE: Bloomberg News. (13 March 2020) "School and office closures are a logistical nightmare for working parents" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/articles/school-and-office-closures-are-a-logistical-nightmare-for-working-parents


The little-discussed downsides of retirement

As the discussions of retirement are inevitable, there are questions that do not always get addressed. Continue reading this blog post to learn more about questions regarding retirement that are not always talked about.


The downsides of retirement that nobody talks about

Clients should identify the possible downsides in retirement and plan on how to avoid them, according to this article in Yahoo Finance. One of these snags is taxation on their retirement income, which can hurt their cash flow. To minimize income taxes in retirement, clients should consider creating sources of tax-free income, such as Roth 401(k), Roth IRA and permanent life insurance coverage.

Can clients have a 401(k) and an IRA?

Employees who are contributing to 401(k) plans can also save in traditional IRAs, but their IRA contributions will not be tax deductible if their income exceeds a certain threshold, according to this article in NerdWallet. Participants in 401(k)s can also contribute to Roth IRAs if they earn below the income limits set for Roth accounts. To make the most of these savings vehicles, clients should make enough 401(k) contributions to qualify for their employer's full match and save the rest of their retirement money in traditional IRAs to reduce their taxable income. Those in a lower tax bracket may opt to direct the funds to Roth IRAs to boost their after-tax income in retirement.

A big question in retirement planning: How long will I live?

Although people cannot predict their own lifespan retirement, there are online tools and services that clients can use to have a good estimate of their longevity and plan for retirement, according to this article in The Wall Street Journal. “No one can predict definitively how long someone is going to live,” says an expert. “But we can say, ‘For someone your age and gender, with your level of income and education, your body-mass index and sleep and exercise patterns, this is what science tells us you are likely to experience.’”

Retiring this year? Here's what clients need to do first

There are a few things seniors should do before they retire later this year, according to this article in Forbes. Pre-retirees should maximize their contributions to 401(k)s and other tax-favored retirement accounts, review Social Security numbers and Medicare changes and create estate plans. They should consider converting some of their traditional assets into Roths to boost their after-tax income in retirement.

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (28 February 2020) "The little-discussed downsides of retirement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/the-little-discussed-downsides-of-retirement


Employers: Make small talk with your remote workers

Working remotely is becoming a trend across many companies, and with that may come a lack of communication between employees and employers. Being intentional with communication strategies is necessary, especially to overcome different challenges that may arise within the working remotely environment. Continue reading this blog post to learn more regarding practices for managing and communicating with remote workers.


Technology makes it easier than ever to work from home, but it’s not the most important ingredient for managing a productive remote workforce.

While full-time remote work is still uncommon, employers are using the benefit to help their workforce achieve better work-life balance. Last year, 69% of employers allowed employees to work from home as needed, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2019 Benefits Survey. And 42% of employers agree to let workers do it part-time, or select days of the workweek. As this perk continues to trend, it’s crucial for employers to adopt a strategy for managing people they don’t see every day.

“As a manager, people skills are crucial when your team isn’t working in the same space,” says Melissa Marcello, associate vice president at Champlain College Online — a Vermont-based employer with a large remote workforce. “When you’re relying on technology to get the work done, you really need to be intentional about your communication strategy to be successful.”

Marcello spoke with Employee Benefit News about best practices for managing remote workers.

What are some of the challenges of having a remote workforce?

While working from home gives employees the flexibility to live wherever they want and maintain better work-life balance, it can be challenging for managers to monitor everyone. Communication has to be more proactive when you can’t walk over to someone’s desk to talk about a project. Teams also need to be more organized and set clear deadlines when team members are working in different time zones.

What strategies do employers need to manage a remote workforce?

Good management skills need to be even more pronounced when you’re managing a team scattered all over the country. Managers need to have a clear vision and set clear goals to make sure everyone on the team is successful. They also need to put effort into developing relationships with individual team members and the group.

How do managers foster relationships with remote workers?

By checking in with them regularly, whether it’s by instant messaging, video conferencing or phone calls. And don’t just talk about work; ask them about what’s going on in their personal lives and about their interests. Send them funny videos over instant messaging. None of these things are wasting time. It’s what you’d do if you saw them every day in an office setting. These are the little things that build strong teams.

What tools do you need to successfully incorporate remote workers?

You need to have a space where everyone can participate in projects even when you’re not all together at the same place, or time zone, working on something. There are many digital platforms that accomplish this; our organization has been successful using G Suite.

It’s one thing to have the tools. It’s another thing to set expectations on how we use those tools and when to provide feedback. A good manager is able to harness digital tools and set the norms for a team, even if they’re in different locations.

How can remote employees ensure they remain productive?

Creating a sacred, designated work space in the home is really helpful. Claim a room in the house where you can shut the door and be dedicated to work, so everyone in the house knows you need to focus. If that’s not an option, coworking spaces are becoming increasingly popular — and you don’t have to worry about keeping your personal life and work separate.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (10 February 2020) "Employers: Make small talk with your remote workers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/employers-communicate-with-your-remote-workers


corporate meeting

Top Challenges for Managers in 2020

Technology and rising trends are creating new challenges for managers to handle. Different situations regarding employees from Generation Z and gig workers, mental health and vaping are creating new ways for managers to interact with employees. Read this blog post to learn more regarding how managers are facing these trials.


Managers in 2020 will face some new challenges, many having to do with their youngest workers. Among those challenges: leading employees from Generation Z and gig workers, addressing mental health issues and helping vapers kick the habit.

Understanding Generation Z

Generation Z workers—generally, those born in 1995 or later—should be on every manager's radar. "Within the next two or three years, they will become the fastest-growing percent of the workforce," said Jason Dorsey, a Generation Z researcher and co-founder of the Center for Generational Kinetics, a research and solutions company in Austin, Texas.

"They don't remember a time before smartphones or social media," he said. They live on their phones, not their laptops, and that's the way they want to communicate—on and off the job. "Gen Z expects to go through the entire application process on a mobile device."

Dorsey said managers often tell him that they don't remember young adults asking about retirement plans, but today's young workers do. "It's the aftershock of the Great Recession, when they saw their parents struggle," Dorsey said.

And Generation Z considers flexible scheduling to be a given, not a perk, Dorsey said. He advises managers who want to attract and retain young workers to offer not only flexible schedules but also flexibility on a start date and the ability to work remotely.

Finally, employees from Generation Z want to have access to their pay beyond the typical twice-a-month paycheck. Platforms such as Instant Financial, which allows workers to access a portion of their pay after every work shift, are appealing, Dorsey said.

Holding on to Generation Z employees may take some coaxing, said Cheryl Cran, founder of NextMapping, a future-of-work consultancy headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. "They are far more entrepreneurial than any other generation," she said, noting that many are gig workers by choice because they value their freedom. Hence, she said, "managers need to think about how to give them freedom" in a traditional job, whether that means offering remote work, flexible scheduling or another solution.

Understanding Gig-Worker Laws

An estimated 15 million adults in the U.S. have alternative work arrangements, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, concerns about whether employers should classify these workers as employees has spurred states to propose task forces or legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Congress, meanwhile, is assessing H.R. 2474, Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019. The aim of these efforts is universal: to stop the exploitation of nonemployee workers.

But that goal can misfire, contend some gig workers who are worried about losing their livelihood. California's AB 5, which took effect Jan. 1 and requires businesses to reclassify many independent contractors as employees, has already triggered controversy, including lawsuits challenging it on constitutional and other grounds and pushback from independent journalists, photographers, interpreters, musicians, truckers and others the law doesn't exempt.

Many of these independent workers tend to be young adults who value the flexibility that comes with freelancing. But that flexibility can make traditional employees at the same company resentful. Inspiring teamwork will be no small task, said Alec Levenson, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the USC Marshall Center for Effective Organizations.

"We are at the tipping point of employers hiring people from all different [work] arrangements," he said. "There is not enough focus on productivity, how to get people to work together as a team."

Destigmatizing Mental Health Issues

Mental health disorders, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are among the most burdensome health concerns in the workplace. Nearly 1 in 5 adults reported having some type of mental illness in 2017; stress symptoms, such as headaches or feeling overwhelmed or anxious, are also common.

Adults from Generation Z report the highest stress levels, according to the American Psychological Association's 2019 Stress in America survey. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest level of stress, Generation Z reported an overall stress level of 5.8. Generation X averaged 5.5, Millennials 5.4 and Baby Boomers 4.2.

In a tight labor market, where there is stiff competition for talent, managers who show concern about their workers' mental health will stand out to applicants and existing employees, said LuAnn Heinen, vice president for well-being and productivity for the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), a nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C., that represents large employers' perspectives on health policy.

In a 2019 NBGH survey, 43 percent of managers said they had a formal mental health strategy in place, including strategies to address depression, anxiety and stress; opioid and other substance abuse; sleep disorders; and workplace bullying.

The managers said the most important components of those strategies are making employees aware of the importance of mental health; hosting mental health awareness events; and training managers on what mental health is, how to recognize trouble signs and how to refer workers to mental health resources.

Even the best mental health programs won't succeed, however, if people don't feel comfortable accessing them, Heinen pointed out. Managers who need help talking with workers about mental health issues can turn to programs such as MakeItOK.org.

Helping Vapers Quit

As of Jan. 7, 2020, a lung illness tied to vaping nicotine or products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in marijuana responsible for the high, had resulted in 2,668 hospitalizations and 60 deaths. Employees who vape—many of them young adults—may need help to end their habit.

Programs to help people quit need to be tailored to the generation of workers you're targeting and that cohort's preferred communication style, Heinen said.

Truth Initiative, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., devoted to eliminating tobacco use, has fine-tuned its decade-old digital tobacco-cessation platform developed with the Mayo Clinic. "We launched a program specifically to address the needs of vapers," said Amanda Graham, Ph.D., chief of innovations for Truth Initiative. The quit-vaping program uses text messages, preferred by many younger adults, and includes instant message support if users feel they are slipping.

SOURCE: Doheny, K. (06 February 2020) "Top Challenges for Managers in 2020" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/people-managers/Pages/Top-Challenges-for-Managers-in-2020.aspx


Even HR executives have to reinvent themselves to survive

New trends, technology, and modern changes are creating concerns for the trained level of HR professionals. With different changes continuously entering companies, HR professionals are having to go through different pieces of training. Read this blog post to learn about HR professionals having to learn about new and modernized paces.


HR chief executives by and large are ill-equipped to meet the needs of the modern workplace, according to a new report of 500 top executives.

The irony is the HR profession is perhaps entering a golden age for HR leaders, as the role shifts beyond administrative and process-related functions to work that is at the very core of a company’s business strategy to keep top talent.

And yet because the workplace is changing so fast to adapt to technological and demographic shifts, the study by SHRM and another insurance company found that the role of HR hasn’t been able to keep pace to train the latest generation of HR leaders.

Because work functions are constantly in flux, training and development can no longer be considered episodic events but instead will require perpetual reskilling to stay relevant. The study noted that between 2003 and 2013, more than 70% of the Fortune 1000 companies changed and were replaced by nimbler firms.

Most HR executives or chief people officers, or CPOs, will need to reskill to stay relevant — and do so quickly, according to HR People + Strategy, the group’s network of business and thought leaders in human resources.

“As the pace of innovation and technology in the workplace accelerates, CPOs will need to reinvent themselves,” says the study’s co-author Suzanne McAndrew, the global head of talent of another insurance company. “With disruption on the horizon, organizations will require strong, visionary people leaders who can think through the people and talent strategy, and work with management on the business strategy.”

Most executives “are not prepared,” McAndrew says.

“We’re only going to get things done if we have the right people, the right talent in the right functions with the right goals,” Upwork CEO Stephanie Kasriel says in the study. “That to me is the role of HR, to ensure that we have the right people strategy in order to inform the business strategy.”

The study reviewed key changes shaping HR functions for human resources leaders and also found:

•Virtually all respondents (99%) believe HR executives must have the agility and courage to change, yet only 35% said today’s leaders are prepared to respond.
•More than nine in 10 respondents (94%) say it’s important to explore the development of future HR leaders, but only about a third (35%) agree that future staff are receiving the training they’ll need to succeed.
•Only one-third of respondents (36%) are prepared to think about how technology can be used to execute work in the future; only a quarter (26%) say they have the technical acumen to evaluate new technologies.

HR leaders can do five things to help drive change, including acting as an advocate for change and agility, developing digital technology to improve HR functions, using automation to foster new skills and reinvention for staff, focusing on workplace culture and leadership and elevating HR decision-making to include more analytics, the study found.
Alexander Alonso, chief knowledge officer at SHRM, noted that HR executives have the greatest potential to foster the evolution of enterprises by building up their own expertise to meet future workforce demands.

Respondents also recognize much progress is still needed with digital enablement and understanding how to apply digital technology and automation in the workplace. Only 42% had a favorable opinion of their organization’s progress when it comes to embracing technology that builds a consumer experience for employees.

“While CPOs don’t need to be technology experts, they must understand how changing technology can impact work and the workforce,” says Ravin Jesuthasan, a managing director at another insurance company and co-author of the study.

SOURCE: Siew, W. (08 January 2020) "Even HR executives have to reinvent themselves to survive" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/even-hr-executives-have-to-reinvent-themselves-to-survive