Safer at Home - Returning to Work (An HR Perspective)

Compliance Connection

Safer at Home - Returning to Work

(An HR Perspective)

April 27, 2020

The Legal Stuff

When the FFCRA first came about, the regulation barred an employer from requiring an employee to exhaust all leave, vacation, and Paid Time Off hours prior to paying the mandated paid leave under the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act - EMFLEA (a part of the FFCRA).  Interestingly, this requirement contradicted other portions by stating employees might be required to use these benefits concurrently with the EMFLA.


With the new Safer at Home (read here) order in place, Coloradans phase into a new normal for reopening our economy. But what does the order actually allow businesses to implement?

Effective Monday, April 27, 2020 and set to Expire May 27, 2020 (unless expanded)

  • Vulnerable populations should continue to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.
  • All others should continue to stay at home as much as possible.
  • Some restrictions lessened for some industries:
    • Retail businesses may open for curbside delivery much like restaurants have been doing.
    • Real estate agents may schedule home showings.
    • Many voluntary and elective medical, dental, veterinary, etc., surgeries/procedures may resume as long as the facilities adhere to required safety protocols (Public Health Order 2020 045).  

Effective Monday, May 1, 2020

  • As long as retail businesses follow best practices, they may open publically in phases.
  • Following the same best practices, personal services may open as well.

Effective Monday, May 4, 2020

  • Other companies may open offices with 50% of staff returning to the physical location.
    • Must implement procedures to protect the health and safety of employees.
    • Allow employees to continue working remotely if possible.
  • Childcare facilities may reopen if they follow Safer at Home requirements.

Of course, individual counties may implement various required guidelines that exceed the requirements in this PHO. In addition, if a county wishes to implement a more lenient list of requirements, they must submit documentation that the county declined in the number of COVID-19 infections for a minimum of 14 consecutive days along with an application to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. Further, they must submit a written suppression plan for COVID-19 approved by the local public health authority, all hospitals falling within the jurisdiction, and all elected officials.


How Do We Return to Work

Now that the Stay at Home Order is becoming the Safer at Home guideline, how do we return to some form of normalcy? The following offers guidance on how to return to the workplace and re-open our businesses from a human resource point of view.

Now is the time to examine the future of business

  • Take this opportunity to examine your business services and structure:
    • Organizational Chart - Is this the time to streamline positions or adjust job descriptions?
    • Job Descriptions – creating and/or revising job descriptions in preparation for the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (click here) effective January 1, 2021 for all private employers with at least one employee.
    • Review or establish wage scales in preparation for the Equal pay for Equal Work Act.
  • Determine what you have learned and where are your gaps.
    • Update outdated policies, processes and procedures.
    • Streamline communication efforts – do you need to reply to all?
    • Systems needing updating or replacement – do the maintenance fees and replacement costs create more liability than a new system?
    • New ways to collaborate.
    • Look at essential meetings and cut the rest.
  • Develop strategic plans to re-open your business.
    • Comply with all local, state, and federal requirements regarding regulations, public health orders, etc.
    • Strategically determine how to open in phases based on projected customer needs, availability of resources, logistics, etc.
    • Define what resources will be needed for each phase:
      • Finances
      • Workforce
      • Materials

Workforce management requires specific considerations

  • When bringing employees back into the workplace, consider screening that will protect your workplace, assets, and customers.
    • Checking Temperatures: Under normal circumstances, employers may not request or require that employees check their temperature or succumb to having their temperature checked prior to working. However, with a proper policy, employers may consider this action due to COVID-19. But the questions and reasons must be based on COVID-19 symptoms.
    • Background Screening: When an employee is off of work for an extended period of time, it might prove wise to complete a background screen prior to bringing them back on the workforce which should be spelled out in a recall from furlough or rehire policy.
  • With all of the new paid leave laws and grants for small businesses, along with the OSHA tracking requirements, etc., companies must determine how to track certain things:
    • COVID-19 related absences v. all others (what may you ask?)
    • Payments under Emergency Paid Sick Leave – Families First Coronavirus Response Act (click here ) v. other leaves.
    • Payroll expenses for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) - CARES Act (click here).
    • Separate bank account for PPP funds (assists with tracking the 75% requirement to apply for loan forgiveness).
  • Due to certain employee relation circumstances, employers must understand the legal considerations for the following:
    • Dealing with staff that do not want to return to the workplace.
      • Review each one on a case-by-case basis to determine the reasons.
      • Investigate what barriers they may have from fear to earning more on unemployment with the additional federal benefits to child care concerns.
      • Understand how to address OSHA Safe Workplace requirements.
      • Make sure you address reasonable accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
      • Decide what employee concerns falls under the protection from the National Labor Relations Board.
  • When bringing staff back from furloughs or layoffs, employers must follow certain criteria:
    • Furloughs: employees whose hours were reduced or eliminated but remained on payroll.
    • Layoffs: employees who separated from the company and were removed from payroll.
    • If you do not plan on bringing all staff back, you must determine defensible criteria as to which ones you will reinstate (furloughed or laid off), such as:
      • Seniority
      • Performance based
      • KSAOs in accordance with job descriptions
      • Review policies regarding new hire practices and re-hire procedures

Review recruitment and retention activities

  • Not all employees may be available to return to the workplace due to personal reasons or they may have accepted another job. Many employers will be searching the same applicant pool and must be creative in their recruitment processes.
    • Streamline hiring processes – cut out unnecessary steps.
      • People will accept jobs quickly; don’t be left out due to long, redundant processes.
      • You cannot over communicate – stay in contact with applicants to ensure they know your interest.
    • Develop your recruitment processes to enhance succession planning.
    • Look internally to determine if current employees are capable of more with some professional development.
    • Determine the need for contingency staff options while searching for top talent instead of making desperate hiring choices.
      • Review recent retirees for temporary assignments and training new employees.
      • Temporary staffing agencies such as temp assignments or travel staff.
    • Utilize LinkedIn and FaceBook for recruitment efforts (this does not mean viewing applicants’ FaceBook pages).
      • Involve your management staff and others in posting open positions on LinkedIn and FaceBook.
      • Consider using LinkedIn professional services to comb through resumes, etc.
    • Contact past applicants that expressed interests in jobs. They might be looking again.
  • We all know retaining employees decreases hiring costs and keeps talent and knowledge in the workplace.
    • Analyze your onboarding processes to enhance culture. Implement onboarding activities to increase the engagement and commitment from new hires.
    • Create communication structures and transparency policies and practices to keep employees informed on business growth, activities, and even struggles. Often our current employees, the ones closest to the problem, create sensible solutions.
  • Through this pandemic, we learned how important it is to support our employees. After all, if you take care of them, they will take care of your customers.
    • Invest in Employee Assistance Programs if you do not currently have one.
    • Review your health insurance benefits for mental health or counseling resources.
    • Educate employees on what is available to them.
    • Continuously stay in contact with employees, including your remote staff.

Safeguard the work environment that employees are returning to

  • Take this opportunity to update cleaning procedures based on CDC recommendations (click here).
  • Be aware of how the environment allows Social Distancing. Can desks be rearranged? Can you stagger shifts?
  • Create handwashing breaks for employees outside of their 10 minute paid breaks and meal breaks.
  • Offer or require masks, gloves, etc., as appropriate with an established policy.
  • Allow employees to wear masks, gloves, etc. if they request to.

Take the time to establish or update policies and procedures regarding the workplace

  • Infection Disease or Communicable Disease
  • Recalling furlough or laid off employees
  • Temperature Checking
  • Wearing Personal Protective Equipment
  • Background Screening
  • Working Remotely - Telecommuting
  • Emergency Preparedness Plan reviews
    • Payroll continuation
    • Accounts Payable continuation
    • Layoff v. Furlough

Remember, whatever boat you are in, you are not alone. As we learn from this pandemic crisis, we need to remain flexible and learn together. Understand mistakes will happen and we will grow from them. Employees are people and this pandemic experience is different for everyone. Be mindful.



Lighthouse HR Support (LHRS) provides practical human resource information and guidance based upon our knowledge and experience in the industry and with our clients. LHRS services are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. LHRS services are designed to provide general information to human resources and/or business professionals regarding human resource concerns commonly encountered. Given the changing nature of federal, state and local legislation and the changing nature of court decisions, LHRS cannot and will not guarantee that the information is completely current or accurate. LHRS services do not include or constitute legal, business, international, regulatory, insurance, tax or financial advice. Use of our services, whether by phone, email or in person shall indicate your acceptance of this knowledge.