COVID has changed how companies conduct business. Once upon a time, handshakes were the norm, large conference rooms were filled with employees and travel was a weekly thing. Now, we wear masks, keep our distance from our colleagues and customers and interact with others through Zoom and other virtual platforms. We used to be able to just waltz into a business and shop and now, our temperatures are being taken before we can walk into certain places, we have to sanitize our hands and we talk to people through plexiglass. Every business in our country has had to rethink safety which means policies and procedures have been reviewed and revamped. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided guidelines for employers including but not limited to: conducting daily health checks, conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace; creating cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and improving a building’s ventilation system.
So, what does this mean for your company? Whether you are a large corporation or a small business, you need to make certain that your policies and procedures follow best practice guidelines, plus, those policies need to be in writing. Having a formal policy and procedure handbook is paramount in the era of COVID. Not only is it necessary to create one so that you and your employees have safety measures in place in order to protect the health and well-being of the people that work for you, but you need it to protect your company from potential lawsuits. I know that sounds a little outrageous but consider this: the family of a Walmart worker in Evergreen Park, Illinois, who died of coronavirus sued the retailer in early April, alleging the company didn’t do enough to protect its workers from the disease. Among other concerns, the family of the worker says Walmart did not do enough to enforce social distancing guidelines, properly sanitize the store, or provide sufficient personal protective equipment for employees.
While I believe the majority of businesses have put safeguards in place to mitigate any potential lawsuits, I cannot stress enough to make sure these protocols are in writing and have been shared with your employees. It is also important to document that your employees have read the policies and procedures by signing an acknowledgement form.
Additionally, create a protocol for employees to freely express their concerns about workplace safety. It is unlawful to fire someone for complaining and a lawsuit could result. Right now, the two most common class action lawsuits involve claims of unsafe working conditions and wage and hour complaints. A company could face a personal injury suit if they had employees come in for work who then got sick. The more safeguards a company adopts, the better your argument is going to be if there’s a challenge by OSHA or a lawsuit.
This is what your policy and procedure should entail, at a minimum:
• Name of policy
• Policy number
• Effective date of policy
• Name of person approving the policy
• Policy description
• Scope (who does this policy apply to)
• Procedures (outlined numerically)
Below are a few examples of policies that should be included in your company’s Policy & Procedure Manual. Of course, you need to tailor your manual to fit your specific needs.
• Infectious disease
• Sanitization of company property including building offices, restrooms, common areas, vehicles, machinery, computers, etc.
• Entering/exiting company property
• Reporting employee exposure to COVID or positive test results
• Social distancing, face covering and other personal protective equipment
• Employee COVID testing
• Whistleblower procedures
• COVID leave of absence
• Disciplinary action if employees fail to follow policies and procedures
Remember, policies and procedures function like insurance; they provide protection for you and your company should a serious event occur.
If you need additional suggestions or guidance on writing policies & procedures, creating an employee handbook or organizing any HR function in your company, feel free to contact me at Alexandra.G@comcast.net and/or visit www.glumacconsulting.com.
Alexandra Glumac is the founder of Glumac Consulting Group whose purpose is to strategically support your business’s mission, vision and bottom line through the coordination and facilitation of customized, quality and seamless HR services.