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As many states and cities move cautiously toward reopening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic shut-downs, there are many questions and unknowns during this unprecedented time. Business owners have many questions surrounding their role in helping to stop the spread, how to keep their employees and clients safe, as well as getting their business back up and running. To help address ongoing questions and concerns, First Bank recently hosted a panel of experts to discuss the CARES Act, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) updates, and commonly asked COVID-19 related questions impacting businesses.

Listen to the full “COVID Updates for Businesses” webinar here.

One panel expert, Jacob A. Herschend, MBA, CLCS, Vice President, Risk Management Consultant, Marsh & McLennan Agency, JW Terrill, Inc. spoke on the common Human Resources (HR) issues impacting businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. “As we’re all getting back to work, there are many key considerations that we need to think about,” said Herschend. “There will be an uptick in workman’s compensation claims, primarily because people will be taking on more responsibilities and doing other people’s jobs that they’re not properly trained for,” he expounded, “and you’ll see a potential for more injuries and claims.”

Remote Workers

Herschend commented that there’s a need for updated policies and procedures, including working from home guidelines, proper cybersecurity usage, and guidance for remote workers to manage both work and family requirements. During the pandemic, Gallup Panel data from the first half of April 2020 found that 62% of U.S. workers were working remote due to coronavirus concerns. In fact, Time Magazine touted COVID-19 as the world’s largest “work-from-home experiment”.

Employers will now need to determine what staffing, if any, will need to be back onsite or within their storefronts in order for critical business operations to begin. Employers will also need to determine what staffing can or should continue to work remote or whether to phase out the temporary arrangement.

Deb Bostic, Chief Human Resources Officer at First Bank, commented that there’s truly no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting your employees during these unprecedented circumstances. “Utilize the skillset of your managers to “get in front of” your employees in order to better understand the unique needs of their departments. Often, department managers have a bond with employees that you may not have from an organizational or top-tier level.”

Considerations for Business Owners

Employers should consider the following in returning their staff back to business operations after the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and stay-at-home-orders:

* Per the guidance of OSHA, have you developed an infectious disease preparedness and response plan?
* What is your workforce need and capacity with any new restrictions placed on your business (for example, are you a restaurant owner and only allowed 25% capacity during the pandemic)?
* What programs need to be implemented or updated to address the medical, mental health, emotional, and overall wellbeing of employees during a transition to new “normal” business operations?
* Determine what safety protocols to implement based on the latest recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), OSHA, the EEOC, local health departments, and other government entities. Refer to the latest OSHA gudelines based upon the nature of your business and risk for exposure in the workplace.
* Will your business require face coverings, screenings, and/or new safety protocols for your staff?
* If required, will your business need to source personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff?
* What, if any, changes need to be made to your business and its structure or business plan to address any new requirements or mandates for re-opening?
* Will your staff require training, including safety instruction, prior to re-opening?

“As you navigate these uncertain times, reach out for support from colleagues, business partners, trusted resources, and city and government officials. It’s an evolving situation,” said Bostic, “and one that we should all approach with empathy, understanding, and flexibility.”

Of course, there are many items to consider as you plan to properly re-open your small or large business. Undoubtedly, there’s now a different economic environment in which to compete in, many considerations for talent acquisition and retention, new staffing requirements, updates or changes to your offices in order maintain compliance, and legal concerns surrounding medical and healthcare issues.

As a holistic, trusted advisor to all of our clients, contact First Bank’s knowledgeable team to help you as you navigate these unchartered waters. From trusted tax professionals to risk management consultants, our teams can help connect you with a wide array of trusted business partners to help you as any new concerns for your employees and your businesses arise. Let’s move forward together.

If you have questions related to risk management amidst the COVID-19 crisis or thereafter, contact Jacob A. Herschend, MBA, CLCS, Vice President, Risk Management Consultant, Marsh & McLennan Agency, JW Terrill, Inc. at 314-594-2780 or 314-458-7317, or via email at jherschend@jwterrill.comYou may also connect with Jacob on LinkedIn.

The information is presented for your information only and is not to be considered as legal advice. Consult your professional tax or legal counsel before acting on any matters covered.