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Returning to Work During a Pandemic: 3 Legal Issues Employers Cannot Ignore

— June 3, 2021

Companies will return to work soon, but things might take a while until they return to their normal pace – and that is totally fine.

Returning to work after the coronavirus pandemic is exciting for everyone, but there are some legal issues to explore before that can happen. How can businesses function at a normal pace? How can they re-open safely? How can your employees feel protected at all times? And most importantly, what guidance should you get? Some employees might not be too tempted to go back to work while others might be more excited than ever, argues mimy employer and HR specialist, Christina Wagner. How can you coordinate these groups and what are some strategies for reopening your company’s doors? 

These Legal Issues are More Important Than Ever

Since your employees might be returning to work sooner than expected, here are your priorities. Knowing what issues to solve first and making the necessary changes is important for the well-being of your company.

Prioritizing high-risk employees first and foremost

People ages 65+ or those having underlying conditions are considered at high risk and should therefore be carefully treated once things start going back to normal. The health and safety of these employees are in your hands, which is why you’ve got to make sure that they are protected. 

  • If they’re asking for special accommodations, offer them the chance to explore their options and do as they ask. 
  • Look at the best ways to minimize infection rates by helping them work from home, if necessary.
  • Make sure you understand the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. People with disabilities should also be prioritized, so make sure you check your employees’ histories well in advance. 

Working parents are the next ones on the list

Daycare facilities and kindergartens have been closed for a long time, so working parents might be unable to return to work as quickly as possible. They might be needing some time to accommodate the new schedule or wait for institutions to open up.

Children disturbing mother who is working from home; image by Ketut Subiyanto, via
Image by Ketut Subiyanto, via

The federal law might not require you to offer working parents any special treatment; however, you should consider it since they’ve been struggling for such a long time. If they request reasonable accommodation time, they should nevertheless receive it. Some of their requests could include continuing to work online, shortening their work schedule, or taking breaks more often. Be flexible and treat every parent in your company the same.

Race discrimination related to coronavirus

You should be aware of any discrimination in the workplace due to coronavirus. Things are going south again in America, with more people being on the verge of an outburst. When stress gets to your employees, they might unwittingly become mean to each other and act irrationally. If that happens, make sure you’re there to take immediate action and foresee the effects. There should be no place for discrimination in the office, so making sure that yours is squeaky clean of such problems should be a priority. 

What Will Happen After Your Doors Reopen?

You must be prepared for what’s about to follow once your doors reopen. These are just some points worth mentioning. Most of these predictions are based on research conducted at Gartner. Check them out to know what to expect. 

  1. Your will focus less on employee experience and more on life experience 

In general, you should be shifting from focusing on your employees’ work experience to focusing on their life experience. Your HR department should be rather concerned with assessing that before anything else. If you’re a supportive employer, you will see a 20% increase in the number of employees reporting better mental and physical health, which is what you should be striving for. 

  1. Social issues will become more important

As a successful employer, you should be focusing more on social issues post-pandemic. You want to have a well-run organization whose values match your employees’. You will most likely become more involved in cultural and social activities and advocate for what matters. The more engaged you are, the more supportive you become; hence the more people will start knocking on your door. 

  1. New regulations will set in

Your company will find new, meaningful ways to coordinate and monitor employees. According to a late study, only 50% of employees in the U.S. trust their company’s data gathering, while 44% receive little to no information on their progress. This is not right, especially since more and more employees complain about it. You will find a system that works for your company, since tracking your employees’ progress is crucial to the quick development and overall sustainability of your business. 

  1. Flexibility will be more easily promoted 

You will be more open to allowing your employees to work from home, as seen above. Besides, your HR department will be more willing to allow your employees to set their own hours. The time and location of their work won’t matter as much as before. The only thing that’ll matter will be high employee productivity. 

  1. There will be more mental health support available for employees

Last but definitely not least, mental health support will expand. Your company will hire more medical experts to help employees cope with stress and other job-related issues. This transition will impact everyone differently, so you must keep an eye open for what’s about to follow. You must show strong support for your staff and make sure their mental health is taken care of. 

Wrapping Up

Companies will return to work soon, but things might take a while until they return to their normal pace – and that is totally fine. As long as you are well-aware of the issues that the ‘new workplace’ brings with itself and prioritize properly, your business will function well. Good luck! 

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