Returning To “Normal” Amidst A Global Pandemic
With the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the possibility for another nationwide shutdown, businesses and employees alike are not sure how to plan for the fall. Will businesses need to return to remote work again? Will employees with children have to configure home schooling into their workday? How will businesses fare with another potential pause of the economy?
Here Is What We Know Now:
State of Businesses Now
To date it appears the pandemic has impacted business on the coasts and larger cities at a higher rate than other areas of the country. In light of this, many businesses on the East and West coasts have chosen to continue with their plan for working remotely. Conversely, many businesses in the South and the Midwest have provided their employees with the option of returning to the office or working from home should they be affected by the virus.
Additionally, larger companies are having to get creative with the number of employees they allow in the office at a time. In some cases companies are letting general employees to work remotely while allowing certain managers and executives to work in the office.
With so many different work environments being utilized, companies are leaning on the law to develop new policies and measures to continuously adapt to the everchanging situation. One of the most prominent laws put into place during the pandemic has been the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Under FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee meets one of the six qualifications.
PPP Loans Helping Small Businesses Stay Afloat
As the pandemic began, small businesses struggled to stay afloat amidst the nationwide shutdown. In order to try to keep Americans employed at the thousands of small businesses across the country, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act CARES Act was put into place. One of the programs under the CARES Act was the Paycheck Protection Program or “PPP”. Originally intended for business owners to keep employees on payroll, the act quickly expanded to cover other expenses such as rent. PPP loans served as a lifeline to many small businesses during one of the worst events in recent history. According to a recent Forbes article, the numbers clearly show the impact of PPP loans across the country.
- $520 billion loans were approved to be distributed to over 8 million businesses
- Average loan amount was $107,000
- 7 million small businesses across the country employ 59.9 million people
While only 15% of small businesses received PPP loans, the changes to lending ended up saving millions of businesses from closing and allowed employees to continue working.
Furthering the Education Gap
Amidst a continuing global pandemic, state and local school districts are struggling with deciding whether to bring students back to in-person classes or continue with a remote learning model. Many parents and caregivers are concerned about going back to a remote learning for fear of not being able to home school and work at the same time. While the FFCRA outlines many exemptions for remote work for employees with children, it does not address the inability for some jobs to be completed remotely. What will parents or caregivers with blue collar jobs do if schools move back to remote learning?
During the first wave of the pandemic, some parents were able to hire private tutors for their children, creating pandemic pods for education. In a recent NBC News segment, reporters highlighted the apparent disproportionate levels of education students were receiving. Parents with high-paying jobs were able to make up for lost classroom time by home schooling, hiring private tutors, or creating study groups. However, students in low-income neighborhoods and school districts may not have been able to access WIFI, computers, private tutors, or even have a caregiver at home to further their education. Should the nation have to shut down again, the education gap may continue to grow due to the lack of resources affordable to students in low-income school districts.
So, What Should Businesses Do Now?
- Have a return to work policy in place.
If you don’t have one in place already, now is the time create one. This will help set expectations for employees during this time of uncertainty. Download our Return to Work Policy HERE.
- Be proactive.
Consider planning how your business will continue to operate at full capacity if changes develop during the school year or if the whole team has to go back to working remotely again.
This can include:
- Changes in shifts and the times or days when people work
- Who can continue to work remotely, and who can’t?
- Hiring more part-time workers to fill the gap of those that need to stay home with children
- Communicate with your employees – be transparent.
Your employees want to know if their jobs are at risk and the current state of the business. They want to feel supported and stable. Share what you can and deem to be appropriate at the time. Continue to communicate and let them know that you are actively planning for any future changes.
For any questions regarding how the above effects your business and how we can help you with employment matters – contact our Sioux City, Omaha, or Sioux Falls office locations.