Before you bring employees back (or as soon as you read this overview if they are already back) Brian Nugent, a partner at Akerman law firm, says you need to do two important things:
Communicate clearly what you will be doing to keep your employees safe and your workplace as germ-free as possible, and what you expect of your employees to do to ensure the safety of their co-workers and themselves.
Document everything very carefully, especially if you are a lucky recipient of a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan or any other government loan or tax incentive.
On May 12, Nugent, who specializes in labor and employment matters, presented the G&A-sponsored webinar: “Tips for Reopening and Remaining Funded.” He spent the first half-hour discussing important considerations and making recommendations about reopening businesses safely and cautiously. He went over sensitivities regarding considerations for more vulnerable and at-risk employees, and the Department of Labor’s rulings regarding employees that don’t have the means to procure daycare for their children.
He also discussed at length taking employees’ temperatures—when to do it and how. There were several points he asked employers to consider—points they’d never had to consider before the pandemic—such as limiting the number of employees in gathering areas like break rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and more. And, if you put a policy in place to check employees’ temperatures before they enter the premises, what happens when they want to leave for lunch? Other considerations included how to arrange the workplace so employees could work safely 6 feet apart from each other and what PPE should be required, etc.
Most importantly, he said, his firm recommends employers provide a re-entry communication that includes a disclaimer about risk and requires every employee to consent to the terms of their renewed employment. Nugent says that employers should work closely with their legal counsels and G&A Client Advocates and HR Advisors as they bring their businesses back online. Doing so will help you ensure compliance and will protect you down the road as you work toward receiving tax deferrals and PPP loan forgiveness, he says.
Nugent spent the final half-hour of the webinar reviewing permissible PPP loan amounts, loan forgiveness considerations, and the relationship between PPP loans and the ability to defer federal payroll taxes. Regarding the latter, he says that until employers receive the final word that their PPP loan has been forgiven, they may continue to defer their payroll taxes—it is allowed.
Nugent covered a lot of ground in this hourlong webinar. If you missed it, watch it below so you have a better sense of what to expect when you reopen your business.