Navigating the Changing Workplace During the COVID-19 Pandemic
A Message from WorkForce Software
As we navigate this confusing and ever-evolving challenge together, WorkForce Software’s top priority is ensuring the safety and well-being of our community. This resource center is a part of our concerted effort to support our customers, employees, and organizations alike with vital information to help cope during these unprecedented times, especially as it relates to changing working environments, absenteeism, stress, and feelings of fear and uncertainty. We will continue to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 on a daily basis and update our resources with credible information accordingly. In the meantime, it’s more important than ever that we use this opportunity to come together—please take care of yourselves, your families, and those around you.
In This Resource Center
We are monitoring and compiling resources for employers to stay on top of emerging regulations, tips for compliance and more related to the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.
Staying in Compliance with Absence Regulations During the COVID-19 Outbreak
During the COVID-19 outbreak, a spike in absenteeism is expected for a variety of reasons—fear and uncertainty, lack of childcare, personal illness, and caring for an affected family member. For every jurisdiction where you have operations, it is crucial to take the necessary steps to ensure everyone in your organization understands and protects employees’ legal rights. To learn more, read our blog post 5 Tips for Maintaining Compliance with Absence Regulations During a Crisis.
Existing and Emerging Laws
We are providing the content below to assist employers in keeping up-to-date with the rapidly changing regulatory landscape related to COVID-19. The content below is not legal advice. Please consult with your own legal counsel regarding company policies and the impacts of current and pending legislation.
Alberta | In Effect
On March 17, 2020 the Alberta Government adopted a regulation amending the Employment Standards Code to provide employees with a 14-day job protected leave if they are quarantined because of COVID-19. Employees are considered quarantined if they self-isolate or self-quarantine due to COVID-19, as may be recommended or directed by the Chief Medical Officer. The requirement that an employee be employed for 90 days to be eligible for this leave is waived.
Ontario | In Effect
Effective March 19, 2020, the Ontario Employment Standards Act is amended to provide leave without pay if an employee will not be performing the duties of their position because of various reasons related to a designated infectious disease, including that the employee is under medical investigation, supervision, or treatment; the employee is in quarantine or isolation; the employee is providing care or support to another individual; or the employee is affected by travel restrictions.
Saskatchewan | In Effect
The Saskatchewan Employment Act was amended to ensure employees job protected leave during a public health emergency. The amendments removed the requirement of 13 consecutive weeks of employment with the employer before accessing sick leave and removed the provision requiring a doctor’s note or certificate. The amendment also introduced new unpaid public health emergency leave that can be taken: (1) when the World Health Organization determines there is a public health emergency and the province’s chief medical health officer has also issued an order that measures be taken to reduce the spread of a disease; or (2) the province’s chief medical officer has independently issued an order that measures be taken provincially to reduce the spread of a disease where it is believed there is sufficient risk of harm to the citizens of the province. The orders would also be made public to ensure everyone is aware of the direction.
US Federal | Legislation Passed – Not Yet In Effect
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
On March 18, 2020, the U.S. Congress passed, and the President signed, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (Act) which takes effect April 2, 2020 and expires on December 31, 2020. The Act covers private employers with fewer than 500 employees (as well as public agencies with at least one employee), and full-time and part-time employees who have been on the employer’s payroll for 30 days. Nevertheless, employers can exclude employees who are health care providers or emergency responders from this emergency entitlement.
Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for a qualifying need related to a public health emergency. This qualifying need, however, is limited to situations where employees are unable to work (or telework) to care for a minor child if the child’s school or childcare facility has been closed or unavailable because of a public health emergency. The first 10 days of leave are unpaid, but employees may substitute accrued paid leave: and the final 10 weeks are unpaid at 2/3 the employee’s regular pay rate for the number of hours the employee would have been scheduled to work to a maximum of $200 per day and $10,000 in total.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
The effective date of this new law is April 2, 2020 and it expires on December 31, 2020. The law covers private employers with fewer than 500 employees; public agencies such as federal and state governments, political subdivisions, and schools; and other entities that are not private entities. Employees are immediately eligible for paid sick leave, but employers of health care providers or emergency responders may elect not to provide this leave to those employees.
Covered employers must provide paid sick leave to employees unable to work (or telework) for the following reasons: (1) the employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; (2) the employee was advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19; (3) the employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a diagnosis; (4) the employee is caring for an individual subject to a quarantine or isolation order; (5) the employee is caring for a son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 precautions; or (6) the employee is experiencing substantially similar conditions as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.
Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of leave at their regular rate of pay. When caring for a family member (reasons 4, 5, and 6), however, emergency sick leave is paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate. Part-time employees are entitled to the number of hours of leave the employee works on average over a two-week period. And the Act requires employers to allow employees to first use emergency paid sick leave, then decide to use any remaining accrued paid leave under a workplace policy. Employers may not force employees to first use accrued leave under a policy.
Paid leave is limited to $511 per day and $5,110 in total when leave is used for reasons (1), (2), and (3) above; and $200 per day and $2,000 in total where leave is used for reasons (4), (5), and (6).
California | In Effect
California State Disability Insurance/Paid Family Leave
California State Disability Insurance (SDI) and California Paid Family Leave (PFL) have been made available to workers who contract or were exposed to COVID–19, and who have proper medical documentation. The one-week unpaid waiting period also has been waived. PFL may be available when employees must take care of a family member with or who is quarantined by COVID-19, with proper medical documentation.
Colorado | In Effect
On March 11, 2020, Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay Rules (HELP Rules) were issued requiring certain employers to provide up to four days of paid sick leave to employees with flu-like symptoms while receiving COVID-19 testing. The Help Rules took effect on March 11 and will remain in effect for 30 days or for the duration of the state of emergency, whichever is longer, up to 120 days. Employers in the following industries or fields must provide this leave: leisure and hospitality; food services; child care; education at all levels (including related services such as cafeterias and transportation); home health care (working with elderly, disabled, ill, or otherwise high risk people); Nursing homes; and community living facilities.
District of Columbia | In Effect
On March 17, 2020, the District of Columbia enacted the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act (Act) in response to COVID-19. The Act expands the D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act by creating a new Declaration of Emergency (DOE) leave. Employees may take DOE leave when they are unable to work during a period when the mayor has declared a public health emergency and the mayor, federal or state official, or a medical professional, has ordered or recommended that the employee quarantine or self-isolate. In these situations, the Act suspends the one year of employment and 1000 hours of service requirements for eligibility. The new leave is indefinite during the public health emergency and applies to all employers in the District regardless of size.
Nevada | In Effect
The Nevada Labor Commissioner’s Office issued formal guidance concerning employee rights and employer obligations regarding mandatory paid leave rights in consideration of COVID-19. The Commissioner advises that employers must not deduct hours from employees’ paid leave balance if they miss work due to mandatory government quarantine by a state, federal, or local agency for exposure to COVID-19.
New Jersey | Pending Additional Legislative Action
Bills to expand job benefits and protection for employee absences related to the COVID-19 pandemic are being considered by the New Jersey State Assembly. The bills would provide greater benefits to employees under the state Earned Sick Leave, Family Leave, and Temporary Disability laws.
New York (State) | In Effect
For employees subject to precautionary or mandatory orders of quarantine or isolation, a new bill requires the following: (1) employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income of less than $1 million must provide job protection for the duration of the order and Paid Family Leave and short-term disability benefits for salaries up to $150,000; (2) employers with 11-99 employees and employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1 million must provide at least 5 days of paid sick leave, job protection and Paid Family Leave and short-term disability benefits up to $150,000; (3) employers with 100 or more employees, as well as all public employers, at least 14 days of paid sick leave and guarantee job protection for the duration of the quarantine order. This took effect immediately (March 18, 2020).
Oregon | In Effect
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries has temporarily expanded the Oregon Family Leave ACT (OFLA) to cover parents who must stay home from work to be with a child whose school or place of care has been closed in conjunction with a statewide public health emergency declared by a public health official. The effective date of the temporary order is 3/18/2020 through 9/13/2020.
Puerto Rico | Pending Additional Legislative Action
Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives approved House Bill 2428 to establish a new unpaid emergency leave of 20 days for employees with a suspected or actual pandemic illness diagnosis. The Bill seeks to amend Puerto Rico Law 180-1998, which establishes paid sick and vacation leave benefits to some private sector employees, excluding those classified as executives, administrators, professionals, and others.
The Puerto Rico Senate revised House Bill 2428 to replace the provision of 20 days of unpaid emergency leave due to diagnosis of a pandemic illness with five days of paid emergency leave. And the five days of paid emergency leave can be used after other leaves have been exhausted. HB 2428 returns to the House of Representatives for a vote on the Senate’s changes.
Rhode Island | In Effect
For COVID-19 related claims, Rhode Island will waive the 7-day waiting period and waive the amount of time claimants must be out of work to qualify for TDI/TCI benefits. Also, for qualified individuals Rhode Island will waive the medical certification requirement and allow workers to self-attest to their condition.
Seattle, Washington | In Effect
The Seattle Office of Labor Standards announced amendments to the city’s Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) Ordinance that increases their access to PSST when their place of work or family member’s school or place of care is closed. Beginning March 18, 2020, in addition to former protected uses of PSST, employees may now also use their PSST: when their family member’s school or place of care has been closed; and for a business with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees – when their place of business has reduced operations or been closed for any health or safety reason.
Using Workforce Management Solutions to Support Your Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response
You may be able to modify the usage of your workforce management (WFM) solution to better support your business continuity plans and adapt to how your employees are now working. We’ve compiled a list of some examples of changes or capabilities that could be considered.
Managing Absences Due to COVID-19
Reporting or Requesting Time-off
Create codes or cost center fields to help track absences related to COVID-19 to indicate if an absence is a result of self or mandatory quarantine due to the virus. Options for usage:
- Direct entry on schedules and/or timesheets to indicate that the absence is a result of self or mandatory quarantine due to the virus.
- Part of request and approval workflows.
- Impacts to normally scheduled overtime.
- Is the time off pulled from an existing time-off balance, a new time-off balance, or is usage at the manager/administrator’s discretion?
- If a request process, do you need a different approval workflow?
- Do you need different behaviors for different employee groups?
- Does the time off exceed any government mandates?
Communicate these policies as soon as possible to help ensure employees understand the rules as they’re making critical decisions.
Make Temporary Changes to Rules
Modify rules for time off and absence balances—such as usage limits or restrictions on allowing balances to go negative—to allow employees to take additional time off if it’s needed.
- Should additional benefits be tracked separately?
- Do they run concurrently or sequentially with other mandated or company policies?
- What are the effective dates for these policies?
- Shows employees your commitment to their health and welfare as well as their families.
Maintaining Compliance with Changing Legislation
Stay Up-to-Date with Legislation Changes
If available from your vendor, subscribe to alerts of changes in workplace regulations—whether leave benefits, employee pay, working conditions, or health and safety.
- Do they provide legally vetted descriptions of the new legislation?
- Are descriptions written in laymen’s terms?
- How frequently are alerts issued?
- Keeps you informed of upcoming changes, enabling you to address changes and mitigate risks associated with noncompliance.
Remote Working and Scheduling Practices Changes
Enable Technology for Remote Working
Relax or remove application whitelisting to allow for system access outside of company network or VPN.
- Is the change permanent or temporary?
- Provides employees with to work remotely without having to introduce manual processes or workarounds to track their work hours and manage their schedules and time off.
Collaborative Scheduling Features
Enable availability and/or shift management capabilities, including shift bidding and shift swapping.
- Do you need to ensure that you have specific skills available for any given shift?
- Will you allow overtime if a swap or other shift change results in overtime?
- Helps ensure the needs of both the employee and business are met.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Relax restrictions to allow employees more flexibility to resolve urgent changes to availability.
- Do you need employees during core hours?
- Do you need core hours to vary across departments?
- Are there a range of hours that employees can work?
- Does it matter when an employee is working if assigned tasks are completed and on time?
- Helps ensures the needs of both the employee and business are met.
Change Approach to Labor Forecasting
Perform more frequent review and adjustment of forecasted labor demand, which is expected to differ considerably from previously generated forecasts and historical data due to changes in consumer, governmental, and business behaviors.
For example, match the actual daily or weekly totals for the previous week in the forecasts for the next week. This will ensure that, instead of historical values, labor demand will be calculated based upon the most recent data available. Schedules generated after these edits will likely be considerably more accurate than those automatically generated in this period
- Are you providing essential services such as food, healthcare, and shelter?
- Are you seeing more traffic or increased hours during morning hours?
- Are you having to introduce new services or increase staffing in some areas versus others to keep your business operating (selling home kits, curbside pickups, deliveries, etc.)?
- Are you experiencing a higher volume of customer service inquiries online and via calls or emails?
- How does the increase in cleaning and disinfecting practices increase your staffing levels?
- Are there individuals in other areas that are being underutilized that could bolster up busier areas?
- Minimizes the risks of over- and under-staffing.
- Enables agility to meet continually evolving staffing changes.
Attendance Policies and Tracking Employee Work Hours
Adjust Attendance Policies
Adjustment or suspension of company attendance policies, including alerts and/or attendance point/occurrence monitoring features tracking banks.
- For temporary policy changes, consider the end effective dates and revisit those end effective dates as new information is received.
- Provides more flexibility for employees who need to accommodate personal obligations as a result of COVID-19.
- Assures employees that they will not be negatively impacted by conditions out of their control
Online and Mobile Time Tracking Options
Enable or expand mobile and online time clock usage to allow for employees to use their personal devices or computers, rather than shared wall-mounted units or in-office devices. Don’t enable geolocations unless you have no other way to identify if an employee is in the right location.
- Are there employees that work alone at specific locations who need to perform safety checks?
- Does it matter where an employee is working if assigned tasks are completed and on time?
- Instills a sense of trust between the employer and employees.
Proactive Notifications for Potential Violations
Set-up notifications that proactively alert you to potential unplanned overtime or rules violations, such as required rest periods and breaks, if an employee might exceed work hour limits, or if a clock punch falls outside of scheduled hours.
- What laws related to employees performing activities outside of business hours need to be considered (e.g. responding to emails or taking a phone call)?
- Mitigates risks of noncompliance, time theft, wage theft, and unplanned overtime.
Onsite Workers and Biometric Verification
Temporarily disable the need for biometric verification on data collection terminals.
- Reduces cross-employee infection risk.
Cleaning of Time Clocks
If you don’t have guidelines, request terminal cleaning guidelines and follow them frequently. Configure an alert to employees after clocking in and out to follow recommended disinfecting protocols after handling equipment that is used by others.
- Reduces cross-employee infection risk.
Preparation for Absenteeism During COVID-19 Outbreak
Employers must implement policies to avoid employee exposure and minimize absenteeism while maintaining operations, such as:
- Leveraging technology to enable remote working
- Implementing travel restrictions and mandatory work from home policies
- Publishing guidelines and protocols for employees with a positive diagnosis as well as in-person interactions, personal hygiene, and disinfecting work areas
- Closing areas where employees may congregate, such as cafeterias and recreational areas
- Ongoing and frequent communication with employees as new and credible information is made available
Strategies for Keeping Employees Working and Maintaining Productivity
It is easy to become distracted from the long-term game—only focusing on the here and now—due to slowdown in business activity, shortages of critical materials and services, and absenteeism of essential employees. It is important to have a contingency plan to keep employees engaged and productive, so we have compiled a list of 7 strategies that can help you do that.
- Remove barriers to remote working
- Assign special projects
- Implement cross-training programs
- Establish flexible or reduced schedules
- Look for alternative methods for tracking employee work
- Incentivize productivity
- Investigate programs that help support business to keep employees working
Making the Transition to Working from Home
Many organizations are shifting to mandatory work from home policies during the COVID-19 emergency, and for some employees it is both a relief and welcomed change of pace. For others, however, it can lead to a loss in productivity as well as feelings of isolation and stress. That’s why we compiled these 10 tactics for working from home during a crisis:
- Confirm and request the technology you need, such as monitors, headsets, webcams, proper internet connection, software, etc.
- Arrange virtual coffee or meal breaks to maintain social relationships and connect on a personal level.
- Conduct daily huddles via video conferencing with team members to make sure your team is productive, collaborating, and aligned on what is expected of them.
- Set-up a dedicated workspace in your home to help set clear boundaries from your personal life and aid concentration.
- Leverage live online collaborative tools and chats to keep your employees organized on projects. Communication is key.
- Schedule regular cadence calls with key collaborators to stay on track with business goals.
- Maintain scheduled work hours to offer employees a sense of consistency and cultivate a healthy work/life balance.
- Dress for the day and stick to your routine as much as possible to determine a healthy mindset for your workday.
- Challenge co-workers to a healthy competition to boost morale and participation.
- Respect your employees’ boundaries. Just because employees are working from home doesn’t mean they are available 24/7. Allow yourself to sign off and refresh.
Balancing Working from Home with Childcare and Home Learning
Due to a nation-wide shut down of schools in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, many parents are working from home with their children present. Those without access to childcare may find themselves in a very stressful situation as pressures of familial life and home learning intertwine with professional priorities. To help parents adjust to these new conditions, here are some tips to help balance working from home with homebound kids:
- Be upfront with your employer and coworkers about your situation. Balancing kids and work may call for you to adjust your workday. Communicate your needs to your boss and keep your coworkers apprised as best as possible.
- Be upfront with your children. It’s just as important to communicate to your kids that you have work priorities so they understand that “play time” can’t be anytime.
- Find a routine that works best for everyone and stick to it. Have your kids prepare for the day just as they would if they were heading to school. Set daily expectations and learning goals if your child had academic work.
- Get creative with activities. Being confined to the home can breed boredom for many kids. Think outside of the box for fun activities they can do with minimal adult supervision.
- Try virtual babysitters/teachers. There are many online resources for kids to take virtual lessons like dance, music, or language lessons. You can even reach out to family, friends, and babysitters for virtual face time.
- If you have a partner, split the responsibility. Communicate with your other half about the best way for you two to manage your work schedules with your children. Know that there might have to be sacrifice on both ends. Teamwork makes the dream work!
- Take breaks with your children and listen to their needs. Just because your workday might be 9-5 doesn’t mean your kids can’t be a part of it. Take lunch or a snack break with your kids as an opportunity to bond.
- Set boundaries and expectations with your family. Set aside an hour or two at a time where your family is expected to let you work undisturbed. Try to keep a dedicated workspace that is off limits to the rest of the family.
- Remember you’re not alone. Many parents are juggling the stresses of balancing work from home and childcare. If you have a network of parents, try arranging a rotating schedule of virtual playdates.
How to Maintain Your Physical Health
Maintaining your physical health during a time when many people are expected to stay at home can be a challenge. Aside from the CDC’s recommendations to wash your hands, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and avoid close contact with others, here are some tips to help maintain your overall physical wellbeing while practicing social distancing:
Exercise outdoors, but give people their space. Consider taking a hike, riding your bike, or simply going for a walk around the neighborhood. Getting some sunshine everyday is beneficial, but make sure you are still keeping a safe distance from others.
Exercise at home. There are many non-equipment workouts you can do at home to stay active. Turn up your workout playlist and try exercises like squats, push-ups, burpees, sit-ups, planks, etc.
Try streaming workout videos for free. Many gyms, studios, and exercise apps are offering free trials of their workout classes, many without the need for at-home equipment. Here are a few to get you started:
- Strong by Zumba
- Planet Fitness available on YouTube and Facebook
- CorePower Yoga
- Cosmic Kids Yoga
- Fitness Blender
- YMCA 360
- 305 Fitness
- Peloton Digital App
Be mindful of your nutrition and diet and drink plenty of water. Make sure that you are nurturing yourself from the inside out by planning your grocery trips ahead of time so that your weekly diet is both balanced and well-suited for your lifestyle.
Consider meal delivery services. If you can’t find time to run to the grocery store or if you’re looking for some inspiration after reaching the end of your cookbook, meal delivery services are a great option with pre-sorted ingredients and step-by-step instructions—even for beginner-level cooks. Many services offer family-friendly and vegetarian-friendly options as well. Here are a few to get you started:
Get a good night’s rest. Getting enough sleep is crucial toward every aspect of your physical and mental health. If you are new to working from home, try to avoid the temptation of staying up late by signing off social media apps an hour before bedtime, meditating, or reading a book.
Tips for Relieving Stress and Caring for your Mental Health
At the best of times, many of us experience stress. For those with a history of mental illness, these times can be more trying than ever. Caring for your mental well-being is just as important as maintaining your physical health. Here’s a list of tips for relieving stress and maintaining a healthy mental state:
- Tap into how your body feels. Physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. Make sure that you are adopting healthy eating habits, drinking plenty of water, getting some form of daily exercise, and getting plenty of rest. Open the windows and BREATHE.
- Take a break from the news and social media. The media’s response to emergency can often foster more panic than inform its viewers. Social media can also exacerbate feelings of negativity, stress, and hopelessness. Turn the T.V. off, put the phone down, and give your brain some time to exist without influence.
- Stay informed. Taking a break from the news and social media doesn’t mean you can’t stay updated on what’s happening in the world. Turn to reliable sources for information on the progress society is making as a whole.
- Stay connected with friends and family. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. Connecting with coworkers, friends, family and loved ones even if through a simple phone call can help us all feel more united and less alone during this difficult time.
- Try virtual therapy sessions. Many therapists, psychologists, and counselors offer e-sessions via phone or video call. If you are accustomed to regular therapy sessions, this could be a great option for you.
- If you suffer from a mental illness, continue your treatment plan. Now more than ever, it’s important for those who experience mental health issues to follow their treatment plans and consult with their health provider about any questions or concerns.
Links to Trusted Resources for Responding to the COVID-19 Outbreak
We’re Here for You
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, WorkForce has a contingency plan in place to continue to provide the highest level of service to our customers, including the highest level of security, uptime, resiliency, and continued access to our global Customer Support organization. WorkForce does not foresee an impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak on our ability to continue to serve and support customers, partners, and organizations across the world. We will continue to provide full transparency of our detailed plans, and execution of those plans, while maintaining the health and safety of our employees. To learn more, visit these resources:
Visit our Customer Community to better understand
- Our business continuity plan
- How to use the WorkForce Suite to respond to coronavirus
- Programs WorkForce is implementing to help customers cope in this unprecedented time
- Collaborate and ask questions in our Customer Forum using the COVID-19 category