Those who were not directly affected by illness or loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic may now be more focused on the consequences of what COVID-19 has done to our financial health.
Businesses facing dismal projections and workers facing income loss or reduction are concerned not only about the damage to the overall economy but possible inability to meet their basic needs. Although we want to look away from the Coronavirus and move on, employers need to be vigilant to mitigate the exposure to their employees and clients in these times where many communities are seeing an infection increase now that most shelter-at-home orders have been lifted.
With all the news and spin on information around COVID-19, employers must rely only on what the actual data reflects. For instance, South Carolina’s highest number of recorded daily-confirmed infections yet since DHEC began tracking that information was on May 30, 2020, at a time when South Carolina received the lowest ranking for social distancing. May 30 was not an anomaly because the number of recorded infections is increasing as we leave our homes and return to work. DHEC reports infections and data by county that employers can review to determine if their community and other communities in South Carolina are hot spots. Reference to data compiled by local health agencies will indicate what employers need to know about an increase in community transmission and what measures are being recommended to mitigate transmission in their workplaces.
The best way to protect financial health is also the best way to protect employees, customers and the public from exposure to COVID-19. Implementing measures recommended by safety and health agencies to protect employees from illness will protect the health of the business and permit it to remain fully operational. It is easy to become focused only on the health-related aspects of the CDC’s communications since those, alone and coupled with those of state health agencies and OSHA, are more than enough to read while business leaders attempt to stay abreast of competing responsibilities. However, CDC acknowledges the importance of healthy business operations in its guidance, “Maintaining Healthy Business Operations,” noting those are the protections that will best protect the business’ employees as well. A June 1, 2020 study issued by ADP indicated employee loyalty to their employers increased for those employers who took quick action in response to the pandemic.
It would be tragic if, in desperation to resume financial hopes for 2020, an employer or business ignores the very tools created that would permit it to do so. Intelligent and informed business leaders know successful efforts to resume operations and restore financial health must encompass a comprehensive plan to mitigate exposure accompanied by rigorous enforcement of that plan. Increased outbreak could require implementation of more restrictions and should be vigilantly avoided so that businesses may remain operational.
If you have questions about this topic or other employment law matters, please contact Chris or the HSB Employment Law practice team.