Remember when the big story last year in labor law was increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour? While that is still an issue being discussed, as we get closer to 2021, one of the most asked business questions now is what changes will be required due to COVID-19? This pandemic has impacted businesses all over the world, not only in the way we work but also in what laws/regulations or protocols businesses must have in place.
While there are no standards currently written specifically for COVID-19, OSHA has outlined that certain regulations could be used to help prevent the spread of the virus. These standards include Bloodborne Pathogens, Personal Protective Equipment, Respiratory Protection, and the General Duty Clause. To reduce the impact of pandemics such as COVID-19 on businesses, workers, customers, and the public, it is vital to prepare and to plan. Measures for protecting workers from exposure and infection depend on the type of work being performed and exposure risk, including potential for interaction with people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and contamination of the work environment. The pandemic will continue to have an impact on the workplace and laws relating to employees. You can find more detailed information here.
If you would like to stay proactive, consider training your employees on infectious disease control.
Labor Law Changes
Employees and employers have a lot of questions concerning The Family and Medical Leave Act as it relates to the Covid-19 pandemic. Can paid sick leave or time off be used for reasons related to COVID-19: symptoms, quarantine, caring for someone who is in quarantine and school closures and who is considered a family member? The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed on March 18, 2020 and went into effect April 1, 2020. It expanded the FMLA and addressed some of those questions but is set to terminate on December 31st of 2020. Now everyone is waiting and watching to see what the Federal Gov’t will do to address these concerns past December 31st.
The three main areas we expect some type of new or extended legislation to cover are:
- Paid sick leave: a benefit that allows employees paid time off from work, to stay home to address health issues without losing pay. In some instances, it can be used to care for a child or family member.
- Family leave: is unpaid, job protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. It also requires that an employee can maintain their group health benefits during the leave.
- Paid time off: time off when the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
Several states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington as of this writing) along with the District of Columbia have implemented or have pending laws and/or regulations that extend or amend the federal law.
What Do I Need to Do?
The Coronavirus is ever-changing and filled with many unknowns which brings new and changing laws and regulations almost every week. It is the employer’s responsibility to be informed and take the necessary steps to ensure a safe workplace. In 2020 many employers had to lay off employees or shut down or scale back businesses. As businesses open back up and get back to work in 2021, employers will have to be prepared and ready by staying informed, implementing necessary precautions and enacting the possible new laws and regulations.
National Safety Compliance is committed to keeping you up to date on the most recent federal and state changes and posting requirements for your business. The information contained in this blog cannot be considered as legal advice. It is provided for general information only. Contact the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) or your state’s Labor Department or agency for legal advice.