For most Texas businesses there is nothing like that first day that you throw open your doors to the world. A fast start for your new business generates momentum and begins building customer loyalty.
In these trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic many Lone Star State businesses are faced with the task of reopening after a partial or full shutdown, and that “reopening day” may be as important as the first day they opened.
The U.S Chamber of Commerce says: “Every business will face tremendous challenges as our nation begins the path to recovery, while still facing the public health threat of the virus.”
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has been giving various sectors the green light during a rolling reopening in May.
Earlier in the month, the state’s Back to Work task force set the stage in a report that said,
"We strongly believe that the Texas economy can be safely and effectively reopened and restored to 100% in the not too distant future … Using the knowledge gained since the pandemic began, we believe business owners can use their creativity and ingenuity to formulate safe and effective protocols for their businesses to open and stay open."
Employer Flexible has compiled a “Return to Work Guidelines” that is a playbook highlighting key issues for Texas businesses reopening.
Of course, this is not a one-size-fits-all situation so every employer’s plan will look different. Employer Flexible recommends that businesses consult legal and medical professionals for further advice.
Employers should continue to monitor federal, state, and local closure orders and re-opening guidelines.
The six-page “Return to Work Guidelines” covers the following topics:
It is no surprise that Workplace Safety is the first section of the guide. Details include:
- Health screening procedures
- Preparing your building
- Developing a pandemic response team
- Developing a pandemic exposure response plan
- Providing PPE (personal protective equipment)
- Detailing cleaning procedures and procuring supplies
- Establishing physical distancing measures
- Restricting business travel
- Defining customer and visitor contact protocols
- Record-keeping and reporting obligations
Employers will need a plan for how they will recall employees to work.
Procedures covered in this section include the possible phasing-in of employees returning to work and how to document your recall criteria in writing.
Special attention is paid to creating a plan for employees returning to work who are in high-risk for infection categories.
Actions may be required to stay compliant with employee benefits. Communicate to employees any changes with group health Insurance, flexible spending accounts, 401(k) or other pension plans, and paid leave.
Review and communicate to staff any compensation changes made during the crisis or that need to be made to reopen.
Working from home proved to be a lifeline for many businesses. Communicate how your company will continue to use remote work in the short-term and what long-term policy changes you are implementing.
There is no such thing as not enough communication to employees and customers when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. All the planning and policies in place won’t be affective if employers don’t effectively communicate them to your workforce and the public.
If you had to lay off employees, then new normal hiring procedures may need to be followed when “rehiring” those affected workers.
We are not saying to set your normal policy handbook on fire, but you are most likely going to have rewrite it to cover policy changes on everything from paid leave to time-off requests to meal and rest breaks to company travel.
And every new handbook should now have its own COVID-19 protocol section.
Business Continuity Plans
Lessons learned from the last two months should be incorporated into your business continuity plan.
COVID-19 Incidents at Work
Confidentiality, in accordance with applicable laws, should be considered if confirmed COVID-19 incidents at work occur.
All the above new policies and practices will require training for your management and employees.